A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

61 40.


Housewives were asked to indicate which of the following media suited them best: Advertisements in papers or magazines, the Wireless, posters or any other.

Advertisements in Papers or Magazines 36.2%
Wireless 60.3%
Posters 2.3%
Other Ways 1.2%
Sample 5414

The preference for the Wireless shown in these figures is common to all groups and all regions of the country, although the degrees of preference vary. The low figure recorded for Poster or other ways of advertising is probably due to the fact that concentration by the Ministry of Food on Papers and Wireless has not accustomed people to look in other directions for regular information.

In the survey of attitudes to National Wheatmeal Bread it was shown that for many of the lower income housewives knowledge of N.W.B. had come from bakers' displays or by recommendation from rounds-men. Further, it is shown below that there are about 9% of all housewives who have witnessed Food Demonstrations or seen Cinema Slides. Despite these facts, only very small proportions choose other than Newspaper or Wireless publicity when asked to indicate the most suitable medium.

Reasons advanced for preferring chosen means of publicity

It is interesting to note that the main reason offered by both those choosing the Wireless and those choosing Newspapers is nearly the same - regular attention is given to the medium by the housewife concerned. In other words, the housewives offering this reason have learnt to turn to the medium mentioned for information.

The next most important reason for choosing a particular medium varies as between Newspaper and Wireless. For those housewives who choose the Wireless the second important reason advanced is the reliability of wireless news and the fact that news from the wireless is more readily understood.

For the housewives choosing Newspapers the second important reason advanced is the convenience of having the information available when it is required.

Housewives advancing the two reasons stated for preferring the wireless covered 47.6% of the sample as against the total of 60.3% of the sample preferring the Wireless.

Housewives, advancing the two reasons stated for preferring Newspapers covered 30.7% of the sample as against the total of 36.2% of the sample preferring Newspapers.

Reasons for Preferring the Wireless . % of Sample % of those preferring Wireless
“Often have the wireless on”. 17.8 47.6% 29.6 79%
“Always listen for news.” 18.6 30.9
Rely on it, “I trust it.” 6.1 10.1
“It’s clearer”, “more understandable”. 5.1 8.4
“I have more time to listen, I can do other things whilst listening.” 4.6 7.7
“It’s more economical, it saves paper,” 3.9 6.4
No Reason Given. 4.2 6.9
Total preferring Wireless 60.3% 100%
Sample 3261
62 63 41.



Total. Newspapers. Wireless. Others.
Reasons for Preferring Newspapers % of Sample % of those preferring Newspapers
“Always read paper, don’t always listen.” 11.9 30.7% 32.8 84.6%
“Have no wireless, but see paper.” 7.0 19.2
“Paper can be read any time, may miss wireless.” 6.9 18.9
“You can cut things out or keep paper by you.” 4.9 13.7
“Explain things better. They give more details;. They’re more understandable.” 1.8 5.1
“Most people read papers, Everybody doesn’t hear wireless.” 1.1 3.01
No reason given. 2.6 7.2
Total Preferring Newspapers 36.2% 100%
Sample 1960

It will be seen that there are minorities in both groups offering the same negative reasons for not choosing the other medium.

Of the 126 housewives choosing posters, some 82 or 65% did so because they thought posters were the obvious method of publicity. It may be taken from these figures that those choosing posters were the small minority who had been taught to look to the hoardings for information.

It may be asked to what extent verbal responses are any certain indication of habits. Later on in this section, evidence from other surveys is offered to check the validity of answers to this question. Further evidence is provided by a cross-tabulation of answers to this question with answers to another question asking housewives if they had read any of the Food Facts notices of the Ministry of Food.

Preferring Newspaper Preferring Wireless
Read Food Facts 81.0 (± 2.4) 73.0(± 2.2)
Did not read Food Facts 15.4 23.7
Did not know. 3.6 3.3
Sample 996 1640

The figures are drawn from one of the two samples which were summed for purposes of this section. It will be seen that those saying they preferred newspapers had in fact read a Ministry of Food advertisement in newspapers to a larger extent than those preferring Wireless. The difference is not very large, but quite clear.

64 42

Social Groups

(a) The proportions in the different social groups choosing various media vary .

% % % % %
Newspaper 45.7 40.8 33.0 35.2 36.2%
Wireless 51.6 57.2 64.4 59.3 60.3%
Posters 1.2 1.4 1.4 3.9 2.3%
Other Means 1.5 0.6 1.2 1.6 1.2%

The decline in proportion preferring Wireless in D group my be explained by absence of wireless sets in some of these families, of which considerable evidence was collected during the survey. It is however interesting that an appreciable, though not a large, proportion of this group (5.5%) choose other than the two favourite means of publicity.

It will be seen that lower income groups show a more marked preference for the Wireless than the upper income, groups. This tendency is corroborated by an analysis made in our “Kitchen Front” survey for the Ministry of Food. There it was shown that lower income groups are more regular listeners to the morning programmes of the Ministry of Food, whilst considerably larger proportions of higher than lower income groups never listen to these programmes. Further corroboration of the tendency is given in the section below on the proportions in the social groups who read the Ministry’s “Food Facts”. It will be shown there that greater proportions of higher income groups than lower income groups read these advertisements in newspapers and magazines.

(b) Reasons advanced for preferring chosen means of publicity .

Though it was shown above that lower income groups showed a greatly marked preference for Wireless as against Newspapers, there are no notable differences between social groups as to the reasons advanced for preferring the Wireless.

Interesting differences appear however between social groups as to the reasons advanced for preferring Newspapers.

Always read Newspapers, don’t always listen. 36.7 33.1 29.2
Have no wireless, but see papers. 4.1 13.8 37.2
Papers can be read any time, may miss wireless. 23.8 23.0 11.1
You can cut things out or keep papers by you. 18.4 13.8 9.3
Sample 599 655 696

Regional Differences .

(a) The proportions in the regions choosing various media do not vary greatly .

Scotland S. Wales N. Midland N.W. N. & N.E. Midland S.E. & London S’th S.W. East Total
% % % % % % % % % % %
Newspapers 42.0 26.5 38.7 37.8 33.9 39.9 31.2 38.8 36.4 40.3 36.2
Wireless 52.5 69.3 56.5 58.3 63.9 57.9 66.1 57.0 56.5 59.1 60.3
Posters 3.6 3.6 1.1 2.6 1.4 2.0 1.6 1.9 6.3 - 2.3
Others 1.9 0.6 3.7 1.3 0.8 0.2 1.1 2.3 0.8 0.6 1.2
Sample 631 329 380 775 839 493 947 263 395 362 5414

It will be seen that preference for the Wireless is highest in S. Wales and lowest in Scotland, and conversely with preference for Newspapers. Next to these areas London and the S.E. shows the most marked preference for Wireless as against Newspapers.

Apart from these areas the regional differences are small.

(b) No regional differences appear in the reasons for preferring the Wireless except that in London and the S.E. there is a high proportion (20%, as against total of 10%) which prefers the Wireless because they have greater confidence in the authenticity of its statements. There are no notable regional differences in the reasons for preferring Newspapers.

It may safely be said from this evidence that preferences for Newspaper or Wireless are nation wide and reflect wide rather than local strata of opinion.

Age Groups .

No notable differences appear in the preferences of housewives in different age groups.

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