Print Subversion in the Wapping Dispute

The End

Saturday 24 January 1987

By the end of 1986 the forces mobilised around Wapping are suffering exhaustion, on 5 December Mike Hicks picket 'leader' and SOGAT member is jailed with a twelve months sentence. On 12 December a small but notable film screening of Despite the Sun and discussion takes place at Bexley Unemployed Centre. Total cost of policing the dispute is given by the Home office as £4.73 million.

A massive anniversary rally on the night of 24-25 January proves to be one of the biggest demos at Wapping to date, 'They came in their Thousands' Picket write in their report of the night of fighting. The policing is so violent several reports and enquiries are launched, there are 67 arrests on the night. Despite the seeming renewal of energy, within weeks the dispute is over, SOGAT and the NGA vote to end the dispute on 2 and 7 February 1987 respectively. The world ends for the printworkers somewhere between that demo and early February. By May 1987 an article published in Direct Action took stock of the end of the News International dispute and its consequences for Fleet Street. 'Many of the newspapers have moved to the East End or are being printed outside London. Long established practices such as the thirty two and a half hour week and the 9 day fortnight are under attack.'

Yet, perhaps Murdoch's end of the world will be worth waiting for. On 10 July 2011 the News of the World prints its final edition after 168 years in print, Murdoch shuts down his Wapping plants and sells the site to the developer St George. News International continues to exert a death grip on the UK's papers and media... the question remains... for how much longer?