The propaganda model was put forward by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman in “Manufacturing Consent” (1988) to account for what gets reported as news in America.
Five filters: For something to get reported as news it has to pass through five filters:
- Corporate ownership: In 1988 most of the news came from just 24 companies, like News Corp, Hearst, Knight-Ridder and Turner Broadcasting (CNN). All these are owned and run for profit by the rich.
- Advertising: The news is mostly paid for by advertisers. Advertisers are not interested in reaching the poor but people with money to spend, like on a new car. So issues important to the poor and working class get little attention or are covered from a middle-class point of view. Also, most advertisers are big businesses and many have Jews in important positions. So you can forget about any honest look at things like Israel, nuclear power, the environment, health care or what American companies do in poor countries.
- Sourcing: Reporters are under a deadline to produce a certain amount of content in a certain amount of time. Government and big business know that and spoon feed it ready-made content. They shut out those who seriously question them. So the press tends to be soft on steady sources of news like the president, the military, big business and the police.
- Flak: Saying the wrong thing can lead to boycotts, lawsuits, a call from the president or cries of “liberal bias” from right-wing watchdog groups. So the press plays it safe.
- Anti-communism: This was used not only to frame events abroad, but to shame the press if it became “too soft” on communism or left-wing causes.
Add to this the two kinds of victims:
- Worthy victims: those who are killed, imprisoned or threatened by an enemy state. They are covered at length. Examples: trade unions in communist Poland, Cambodians killed by Pol Pot.
- Unworthy victims: those who are killed, imprisoned or threatened by the American government or a friendly state. They are hardly covered at all. Examples: trade unions in Turkey, Cambodians killed by American bombing.
The two kinds of sources:
- Unquestioned sources: the governments of America and friendly states; those who have fled from or speak out against enemy states.
- Questionable sources: the governments of enemy states; those who have fled from or speak out against America or friendly states.
Chomsky and Herman say that the propaganda model still applies today, despite the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of the Internet:
- The lack of a strong left in the West means the press supports capitalism even more strongly.
- The Internet: While it has been a great help to protesters, in general only those with serious money can reach millions.
And meanwhile the media has fallen into yet fewer hands. By 2002, when they wrote a new introduction to their book, most of the mass media was owned by just nine companies:
- News Corp
- General Electric
- AOL-Time Warner
- Vivendi Universal
- AT&T-Liberty Media