The great dispute at News International newspapers in 1986-87 was a turning point in the history of the British press. The sacking of virtually an entire workforce by the owner Rupert Murdoch introduced the age of corporate control that today determines what people are told about the world by the professional media.
In 2011 the 25th anniversary of the year-long strike and the ruthless dismissal of 5500 workers by Rupert Murdoch was marked by an exhibition which presented the workers’ story of the dispute and provided a political context. At the same time a scandal erupted that, at times, overwhelmed almost all other news. The British public was exposed to the revelations of phone hacking, bribery and corruption of police and public officials, the grooming of politicians and more on the part of the Murdoch press.
As a visitor to the exhibition remarked at the time “everyone knows about Murdoch now”. But in 1986 they did not. The dismissed workers, their families and their supporters were disbelieved at best, blamed and vilified at worst for bringing about their own destruction. The full strength of the law was used against their trade unions. Police lies and brutality against pickets and demonstrators reflected the same contempt they had displayed towards striking miners and later the Liverpool football fans at Hillsborough.
Most of the published accounts of what became known as the Wapping dispute have blamed the workers in one way or another. The News International Dispute Archive which emerged from the 25th anniversary exhibition and especially this website offer for the first time opportunities to discover the workers’ version of events in more detail. Original and primary source material is accessible as well as images and printed material and documents produced at the time.
The website includes photographs and film footage, and an oral history. We welcome contributions of documents, memorabilia, and personal recollections of events and issues, especially from those who were directly involved. There will be additions to the site, including a more extensive archive and audio-visual content as new material is prepared.
The website will be an important and continuous asset for anyone interested in the history of Britain’s media, trade unions, and workers rights.
Use the tabs at the top of this page to follow the story of the dispute and its many dimensions and to find your way around the website.