The Empire Press Union and the expansion of Imperial Air Services 1909-39 with special reference to Australia, New Zealand and India
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Denis CryleDenis Cryle, C Kaul
This article will examine the involvement of the Empire Press Union, including prominent early members like Lord Northcliffe and its founder Sir Harry Brittain, in the development of imperial air services as part of a larger ongoing study involving India, Australia and New Zealand. The main focus will be on the first three decades of the organisation (1909-1939) and on its regular conference activity which correspond with the pioneering period of aviation in Britain and in the antipodes. The press, as will be shown, had a commercial stake in the pioneer aviation story, while the Empire Press Union, for reasons to be outlined below, had a strong interest in Imperial Airways’ plans to develop the ‘longest air route in the world’ to that time. The focus of this analysis is inevitably limited: it does not, for example, deal with the ambitious British air ship experiment which competed for funds and publicity with aviation, albeit with tragic outcomes. In contrast with the triumphalism of traditional communication and press narratives, it uncovers a complex faltering set of developments in which the Empire Press Union, both for altruistic and self-interested motives, played its part. In general terms, this involvement also serves to confirm that the Empire Press Union and its elaborate conferences paid increasing attention to new and emerging technologies like aviation and broadcasting in the inter war years. Moreover, this interest was not solely a response to the commercial challenges which such inventions posed to newspapers and print journalism; rather it reflected the willingness of the Press Union leadership, both in Britain and elsewhere, to harness such developments in the interests of speedier and cheaper imperial communications.