The Propaganda Model

The ‘Liberal Theory of the Press’ (1956) states that there are four social theories that govern the media: Authoritarian, Libertarian, Socially responsible and Communist. Each

of these constructs aim to operate within a public sphere in order to provide services to the political, social and economic systems.

However, in 1988 Noam Chomsky and Edward S Herman produced ‘Manufacturing Consent – The Political Economy of Mass Media’. The publication introduced a ‘propaganda model’ which outlines five ‘filters’ that dictate the output of media organisations. In my entry today I will discuss four of them.

The first filter; size, concentrated ownership, immense owner wealth sees mass media as incredibly capitalised. It argues that media owners use their power to selectively represent views in their publications and broadcasts. Because of their status and position they have access to the public sphere and can therefore convey their ‘state-corporate’ messages with ease. As a result of this they suggest that dissent from the mainstream is given very little coverage. However advances in technology over the past twenty years have meant the public now have a forum through social media, in which a more dominant voice can be heard.

The second filter, advertising, acts as the crunch that enables production to continue. Media corporations have to use the fierce competition that advertisements attract to raise more funding than any potential rivals. Therefore, in order for any media corporation to survive, it has to mould itself towards an ‘advertiser-friendly’ medium.

The third filter is the sourcing of mass media.
Because of such a competitive reliance on breaking big news stories and gaining official sources, corporations have to concentrate their resources towards areas where major news stories are likely to happen in order to get there before their competitors.

The fourth filter, ‘Flak’, is described by Herman and Chomsky as ‘negative responses to a media statement or other media program’. Because of this increase in public power, corporations can no longer hide away from major mistakes and so must always consider breaches of media laws such as libel. “The threat of lawsuits can be a powerful deterrent to media investigations.” (Cromwell, 2002)

Despite Chomsky and Herman’s model the extent to which a corporation considers or faces these filters may vary. Some media institutions are more likely to encourage debate and public opinion whilst others may shy away to avoid controversy.