Media play a very important role in the modern society. According to Mullen (2010, p. 56), the role of media has become more relevant in the current democratic and capitalistic society. This scholar says that information is power, and depending on how it is coined and used, it can bring development or destruction in equal measures. Many scholars have emphasized the fact that the world is increasingly being globalized.
This globalization is largely brought about by media. Media educate, entertain, inform, amuse, and inculcate beliefs, values, and behavior that help define the social structure of a society. Media has been considered as the channel through which a society can be swayed into believing in certain ways that might be new to them. This is the reason why political leaders have relied upon media to sway the thinking of the public.
Corporate bodies also depend on media in order to attract the public towards their products. The public also look upon the media to highlight their plight in order to get attention of those who are in power. This puts media at the center of these forces.
Mullen (2010, p. 113) says that, “Fulfilling this role in a world of concentrated wealth and conflict of interest requires propaganda.” This research seeks to investigate the usefulness of propaganda model in terms of how it provides a means for understanding and studying media power.
Importance of Propaganda Model
Media power has been demonstrated in various ways and for a long time that the current scholars have come to agree that it cannot be ignored. However, massive conflict of interest has created many difficulties in ensuring that media does its role in the expected manner.
Information is power, and once a piece of information is distorted in any way, a section of the society will benefit, while another section will suffer. As mentioned above, the three main stakeholders look upon the power of the media to achieve their interest.
The first and most powerful stakeholder that needs media is the government. In the developed countries, political leaders heavily rely on the media to pass selective information to the public. Given that such governments are always given their mandate by the public, they would try to appease the public even if they are not working within the public’s expectation.
Media can be a very useful tool, or a very dangerous threat depending on the approach it takes. In order for the government to ensure that the public is constantly satisfied with what it is doing, it requires media to pass development projects that the government has completed or those that are to be rolled out. Media in this case will be helping government to reach the public with information that will be pleasant to the government.
On the other hand, media can be very dangerous to the government, especially if it exposes some of the malpractices within various government agencies. It has the power of bringing down the government if the kind of negative revelations are very serious. Government will therefore, try to manage media in order to ensure that it remains friendly to it.
The second group is the corporate body. Large business organizations depend on media to pass information about their products and brands in order to increase their profitability. A brand that is widely known in the market is more likely to perform better than others, which are new to the public.
Large corporations also depend on media to pass information to the public about some projects that are meant to help public other than to generate profits. That is why most firms always invite media when engaging in corporate social responsibility. Media can also destroy reputation of a firm, especially when there are some malpractices it is involved in that directly relates to the public or government.
The corporate bodies would therefore, want to be in positive relationship with the media. The last group is the public. The public depend on the media to be the watchdog on what the government and corporate bodies are doing.
The media is expected to expose any practices of the government and corporate bodies that may cause any harm to the public in one way or the other. The media is also expected to protect the public from distorted and confusing information. The message passed by the media to the public should be clear and straightforward.
The government can play its role in an independent manner as a way of fostering a democratic society guide by principle of fairness. However, conflict of interest develops when the media realizes that it needs these three stakeholders to remain in business.
It needs the government to give it tax incentive and protection from any form of attack. It needs the corporate bodies to make advertisements, which is its principle source of income that ensures that it remains in operations. It needs the public to trust and consume its production to make it relevant both to the government and to corporate bodies.
At times, it may involve compromising on its integrity in order to please one party at the expense of others in order to get the incentive offered. This has raised a lot of question when it comes to understanding power of media.
According to Klaehn (2005, p. 67), media power ceases to be evident when it is coerced- either through financial incentives or threats of whichever form- to behave in a manner that favors either of the three parties at the expense of the other parties. This power can only be said to be present when the media can perform its functions to the three bodies in a free and fair manner.
In editing the book ‘Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,’ Mullen (2010, p. 89) talks about the relevance of propaganda model in enhancing media power in order to fulfill its role despite the conflict of interest that exists. These scholars propose five filters that are able to help media power to supersede the conflicting interests.
Understanding these filters will help in understanding the importance of propaganda model as a means of studying and understanding media power. The first filter talks about size, ownership and the orientation of a media firm in terms of profit generation.
This filter explains that the size of a media in terms of coverage will dictate its power. This filter also explains that when the focus of media is too much on profitability and incentives offered by the government and other corporate bodies, then its power shall be compromised.
The second filter is advertisements as being the principal source of income for media. Governmental bodies and corporations always sponsor most of the programs in the media, especially on television and radios.
These bodies will always select programs that are in line with their products or those that support their course. In cases where the media is too concerned with the earnings from the advertisements, then there will be higher chances that the quality of information passed to the public will be compromised due to the need to select programs that are favored by the corporate bodies.
The third filter is sourcing the mass media news. The media is always concerned with sourcing information from reliable sources. Most of this information comes from government bodies, corporate organizations. Klaehn (2005, p. 36) says that there are times when media faces influence or coercion from these sources. The power of media will always be determined by its ability to go beyond these influences and coercions.
The fourth filter is flack and enforcers. Klaehn (2005, p. 56) defines flacks as the negative responses or opposition to media programs or responses. In this case, the enforcers are the agents used to express this opposition. The larger the level of flack, the more complex it would be for the media to withstand it.
The fifth filter is anticommunism as the control mechanism. Communism has been seen as a real threat to social classes that is at the center of capitalism. This means that the other two bodies (the government and corporate bodies) who benefit from the presence of social classes will oppose it.
The power of the media in this case will be determined by its ability to remain neutral to forces against or in support of communism. These five filters confirm that the propaganda model is useful in providing a means for understanding and learning media power.
List of References
Klaehn, J 2005, A Critical Review and Assessment of Herman and Chomsky’s
“Propaganda Model”’, in Filtering the News: Essays on Herman and Chomsky’s Propaganda Model, Black Rose Books, New York.
Mullen, A 2010, Bringing Power Back In: The Herman-Chomsky Propaganda Model, 1988-2008’, in The Political Economy of Media and Power, Peter Lang, New York.