The English are avid consumers of mass media, from newspapers (national and local) and innumerable magazines to hundreds of TV and radio stations, both terrestrial and digital.
The UK’s national daily newspapers are commonly identified as either “quality” (that is, publishing serious, news-led journalism) or “tabloid” (devoted more to populist muck-raking and celebrity/royal gossip). On the quality side are the left-leaning Guardian, broadly centrist Independent, right-leaning Times and staunchly Conservative Daily Telegraph, along with the business-minded Financial Times. All are outsold by the tabloids, led by the right-wing Sun and left-ish Daily Mirror, along with the tub-thumping, frequently xenophobic Daily Mail and Daily Express.
All of these appear Monday to Saturday only. On Sundays, each gives way to a sister title from the same stable. Most are identifiable (ie Sunday Times, Independent on Sunday and so on), though the Guardian becomes the Observer – England’s oldest Sunday newspaper – and the Sun mutates into the laughably mistitled gossip-rag News of the World.
You’ll also see mostly weekly local newspapers along with racks of magazines from the parochial to familiar global titles. One to look out for is the satirical bi-weekly Private Eye, which prides itself on printing the stories the rest of the press won’t touch, and on riding the consequent stream of libel suits. Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans in London should look out for the weekly free magazine TNT, which provides news from home as well as classified ads.
The UK has five terrestrial TV channels available pretty much everywhere: BBC1 and BBC2 (wwww.bbc.co.uk), ITV1 (wwww.itv .com), Channel 4 (wwww.channel4.com) and Five (wwww.five.tv). Most hotels – and a fair sprinkling of other forms of tourist accommodation – will offer cable or, more frequently, satellite channels as well.
The BBC runs five analogue radio stations. All are available nationwide, though the exact frequency varies according to your location: Radio 1 (chart and urban music; 97–99FM), Radio 2 (light pop and specialist music; 88–91FM), Radio 3 (classical music; 90–93FM), Radio 4 (current affairs and serious speech; 92–95FM) and Five Live (rolling news and sport; 693 or 909 AM). Other national stations include Classic FM (light classical music; 100–102FM), Absolute (pop music; 1215 AM plus 105.8FM in London) and TalkSport (sports phone-ins; 1053 or 1089 AM). There’s also a host of local stations in each area, both BBC (mostly speech-led) and commercial (almost entirely music-led).
All these can also be picked up digitally – either online, or through a digital TV, or with a special DAB digital radio – which also gives you access to countless more digital-only stations, from classic rock to Christian worship.