The Propaganda Model: A Retrospective
Edward S. Herman
Volume 1, 2005, Cultural Technology and Policy Journal
The propaganda model offers a structural explanation for media behaviour and performance, rooting these in ownership, funding via advertising, sourcing, flak and ideology. It is not claimed that these factors explain everything, but they constitute filters that have powerful effects on media work, and they have proven themselves to have strong explanatory value. Because the model involves a radical critique of the media, and suggests that reform that falls short of major structural change will not remedy the deficiencies in media performance, the propaganda model has been harshly criticized as conspiracy theory, functionalist, and giving inadequate play to growing journalist professionalism. These criticisms do not withstand close scrutiny, and the critics have not produced a more serviceable model. The model has become more relevant in recent years with the increasing commercialisation and concentration of the media, the great power of advertising, the closer relation of media to powerful sources like governments, greater governmental sophistication in news management, and the more aggressive use of flak to discipline the media. The ideology of anticommunism has perhaps been weakened by the fall of the Soviet Union, but it is more than made up for by the growing strength of market ideology. The propaganda model is well illustrated in the case studies supplied in Manufacturing Consent, which have been updated and supplemented in the 2002 revised edition of the book.
Key words: propaganda model, media policy, media performance, media power, journalist professionalism.