The Fourth Estate
is a 1996 novel by Jeffrey Archer
. It chronicles the lives of two media
barons, Richard Armstrong and Keith Townsend, from their starkly contrasting childhoods to their ultimate battle to build the world's biggest media empire. The book is based on two real life media barons - Robert Maxwell
and Rupert Murdoch
, who fought to control the newspaper market in England (Murdoch bought The Sun
and News of the World
and later The Times
and Maxwell bought the Daily Mirror
and its Sunday edition, the Sunday Mirror
The concept of the fourth estate
is in essence the press as a watchdog on other powerful institutions or "estates
", the original three estates in England
and later the United Kingdom
being the Lords Spiritual (of the Church of England), the Lords Temporal, and the commons. The fourth estate is charged with keeping an honest watch on activities of the other states and itself. These duties would help democratic societies function properly, openly, and honestly. Debate still flourishes as to whether or not this ever operated (or operates) as it was intended.
It also shows a battle between two strong characters from differing backgrounds, who are willing to take endless risks.