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The propaganda model was first advanced by Herman and Chomsky (1988 cited by Klaehn, 2009) and proposes that the mainstream media is usually made up of large corporations, which are “controlled by very wealthy people or by managers who are subject to sharp constraints by owners and other market-profit-oriented forces” (Klaehn, 2009, p. 43). This argument alludes to the possibility that media behaviour is influenced by among other things the ownership, profit orientation and size of the media house. These influences according to Herman and Chomsky (1988 cited by Klaehn, 2009) encourage “a right-wing bias” in media discourses (p. 43). On its part, the political economy has no precise definition in literature. However, for the purposes of this paper, Mosco’s (2009) definition of political economy will be adopted. It is defined as “the study of social relations, particularly the power relations, which mutually constitute the production, distribution, and consumption of resources” (p. 24). Seen from the perspective of the media, the political economy emphasises how the media organisation produces content, how the product is distributed and marketed, and how consumers choose which media content to listen to, read or watch.


According to Mosco (2009), the political economy’s relationship with the media is deep because the media has the ability to shape audiences’ perceptions and thoughts. Additionally, the media has the ability (or power) to control things, processes and people even where there is resistance. With increasing conglomeration, media companies are reducing in number but are becoming bigger at the same time (Iosifidism, 2010). Such a trend poses a major threat in that existing media houses will have more control over the production of news content, the distribution of the same, and even the consumption of media content.

The link between the propaganda model and the political economy is according to Achbar (1994) further seen in how the raw materials used in media have to pass through ‘filters’, which leave a refined residue fit for publication. The media defines what is newsworthy, based not on what the audiences may be interested in, but on what serves their social, political and economic interests. In the section below, the case of the political economy in the US and the application of the propaganda model therein will be analysed. The five filters indicated by Herman and Chomsky (1988 and cited by multiple authors such as Pedro (2011)) will be applied.

  • Ownership: By 2005, 300 media stations were owned by ten largest television group owners in the United States (Iosifidism, 2010). The six largest media corporations in the US were identified as Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation, Bertelsmann, Viacom, and NBC (Bagdikian, 2004). The implication of media ownership concentration on the political economy is that the media owners still have holdings in other sectors and even countries. As such, Chomsky (1989) argued that self-interest by media owners would dictate media content and in the end, audiences would read, listen and view what media owners think is of benefit to them.

  • Advertising: Chomsky (1989) indicates that as the major source of revenue for the mainstream media, advertising no doubt has an effect on what the media outlets publish. In the US, concerns have been raised that media often distorts news content in order to accommodate advertisers’ concern (Baron, 2006; Brown & Cavazos, 2005; Ellman & Germano, 2008). It is thus argued that excessive commercialism has weakened media content and audiences can no longer receive objective news.

  • Source: In the US, the mainstream media has entered into a symbiotic relationship with powerful information providers (Deuze, 2005). Such providers include government and corporate sources – sources that are adept at ‘feeding’ the media with content that suits them. The government-provided information in the build up to the Iraq war is an example of how dominant sources can be misleading. As indicated by Chomsky (1989), non-elite sources can rarely pass through the ‘sources’ filter since the information they provide is viewed with utmost suspicion.

  • Flak: In the US, the media is regarded as being afraid of lawsuits (which can be costly hence critical to their profit-making agendas), government sanctions (although rarely), and complaints from powerful individuals who finance the media (e.g. through advertising). The foregoing fits into Chomsky’s (1989) description of flak, which he says is antagonistic toward the media. For media’s own benefit (usually profit-related), the flak machines are rarely (if ever) questioned or ill-treated by the media.

  • Anticommunism: Basically, this is the ‘our side their side’ approach through which the US media mobilises audiences to support causes. In the post 9/11 period, anticommunist sentiments include energy insecurity, terrorism, and the war on Iran among others.


Thepropaganda model and the political economy in the US and elsewhere enables audiences (and interest groups interested in fostering objectivity in the media) to understand how self-serving elitist policies affect the media. Consequently, people pursuing objectivity can develop tactics that will bypass the filters indicated by Chomsky (1998) especially through alternative media.


Achbar, M. (1994). Manufacturing consent: Noam Chomsky and the media: The companion book to the award-winning film by Peter Wintonick and Mark Achbar. New York: Black Rose Books Ltd.

Bagdikian, B. H. (2004). The new media monopoly. Boston: Beacon Press.

Baron, D. (2006).Persistent media bias. Journal of Public Economics, 90(1-2), 1-36.

Brown, K., & Cavazos, R. (2005). Why is this who so dumb? Advertising revenue and program content on network television. Review of Industrial Organisation, 27(1), 17-34.

Chomsky, N. (1989). The political economy of the mass media. Retrieved from http://www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/198901—.htm

Deuze, M. (2005). What is journalism? Professional identity and ideology of journalists reconsidered. Journalism theory Practice & Criticism, 6(4), 443-465.

Ellman, M., & Germano, F. (2008). What do the papers sell? A model of advertising and media bias. 1-40. Retrieved from http://www.iae.csic.es/investigatorsMaterial/a8287092114archivoPdf1062.pdf

Iosifidis, P. (2010). Pluralism and concentration of media ownership: measurement issues. Javhost- the public, 17(3), 5-22

Klaehn, J. (2009). The propaganda model: theoretical and methodological considerations. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, 6(2),43-58.

Mosco, V. (2009). The political economy of communication. New York; London: Sage.

Pedro, J. (2011). The propaganda model in the early 21st century. International Journal of Communication, 5, 1865-1905.