Fourth Estate

Why is the press often referred to as the "Fourth Estate"?

By Mr. Doug, New York, USA (19th Dec.2006)

Sir Edmund Burke referred to the press in this manner. During one of his speeches in the British Parliament, Sir Edmund talked about the three estates of the realm: the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal, and the Commons. Then looking at the reporters sitting in the press gallery, Burke apparently said, "Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, more important than them all".

The term
Fourth Estate was originally used to refer to newspapers, but nowadays it is being used to refer to the other media as well — radio, television, etc.

Sometimes the BBC is jocularly referred to as the fifth estate! By the way, the Lords Spiritual and the Lords Temporal refer to the members in the Upper House of Parliament, namely the House of Lords; and the "Commons" refers to the members of the Lower House, the House of Commons.

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