The Propaganda model of media control was introduced by Edward. S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in their book ‘Manufacturing Consent – The Political Economy of the Mass Media’. This theory states how propaganda works in a mass media.
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The model tries to understand how the population is manipulated, and how the social, economic, political attitudes are fashioned in the minds of people through propaganda. Herman and Chomsky mostly concentrated on American population and media for their research but this theory is universally applicable.
In their book Manufacturing Consent, Herman and Chomsky says “A propaganda model focuses on this inequality of wealth and power and its multilevel effects on mass-media interests and choices. It traces the routes by which money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalize dissent, and allow the government and dominant private interests to get their messages across to the public”.
According to the theory media operates as a business which sells its products (readers and subscribers) to other business entities that do their advertisements in media, rather than performing the function of disseminating news for the public. Here the news is being misshaped and reformed from its original form. Herman and Chomsky call the factors which misshape news as filters. The news is being filtered by each of these factors before they reaches its audience or general public.
The five filters are
Size, Ownership and Profit orientation of mass media
The major media organizations are in the hands of a few elites. The major news channels, newspapers and other mass media instruments are a part of large corporation and conglomerations. The information presented to the public will be varying as per the interests of these organizations. As a part of maximizing profit they sacrifice some news objectives. The extensive financial interests of these organizations may endanger the quality of news. It is common around the world that the medias in the hands of government being puppets.
Example: Corporate organization who owns media never publishes the financial details, which may endanger them.
The advertisements play the major role of funding in mass media. If advertisements were not funding mass media, then price of the newspapers may include cost of its production and also it’s applicable for other mass media like Television, Radio and electronic media. So it is common that the media filters the news, in favor of their advertisement providers. The ethics of the mass media is often modified for their existence by media.
Example: A corporate organization may threaten the media saying that they will withdraw advertising contract if the media publishes any news which damage the reputation of the organization.
Even the biggest media organizations cannot afford to have reporters and camera persons where ever the news breaks. There will be some sources for news and the media is supposed to protect these sources and in the same time there will be some powerful sources which tend to change the policies of media. For availing a continuous flow of news, the media take suitable actions in favor of source. The relationships have to be maintained with these sources and it is common that the news are published keeping the ‘source’ in mind.
Example: The spokesperson of a prime minister or president is considered as a powerful source of news. For making sure of a proper flow of news the organizations keeps the sources delighted by fine-tuning the news.
Flaks refer to the negative responses to the statement or programme published or broadcasted. If the flaks are produced in a large scale it is destructive to the media. The media will always have an eye for the negative responses. It will have a through look on the materials and news before it publishes or broadcasts some news about a publically loved figure. As a filter it will try to avoid the news items which may bring sorts of negative responses.
Example: Most of the media never publishes news projecting negative image of religious leaders without strong evidence. Because it may harm the reputation of media organization among the public.
As far as the American corporations and elite groups are concerned the communism was an ultimate evil because it took their wealth and power from them, it threatened their superior positions and high class. So the elites who are the owners of media adopted a policy to bring censorship to the articles and news which talks about the good side of communism. The American elite even feared the word communal. This is the fifth filter in propaganda model suggested by Herman and Chomsky.
Example: The news which says about the communal living of workers was never allowed to publish in America. Because they were afraid of a revolt by the workers if such articles and news are disseminated.