The Propaganda Model: In the West and Russia

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The Propaganda Model

The Typical Propaganda Model
  1. Ownership: corporate owners of media will not be inclined to report news that is counter to their own interests. This could be wealthy individuals, such as Rupert Murdoch, using their position to direct content, or the corporate structure incentivising profit-maximisation over factual reporting. For example, reporting of the 1996 Telecommunications Act was significantly affected by the financial interests of corporate owners of media.
  2. Advertising: a large bulk of news media revenue comes from selling advertising space. With a focus on advertising, the reader or watcher of the news becomes the product being sold by the news media to advertising corporate interests. Because of this filter, news media will be less inclined to report against the interests of their corporate advertisers — their main source of revenue. Unsurprisingly, for example, car magazines provide better reviews to their advertisers.
  3. Sourcing: media and government (or other powerful groups) exist in a symbiotic relationship. Governments rely on the news media to spread their narrative, and news media corporations rely on access to government sources in order to develop news and stay relevant. If this relationship turns antagonistic, it may threaten the media’s access to vital news sources. Therefore, the media is incentivised to “play nice” with the government.
  4. Flak: reporting against a powerful interest group may result in “flak” — punitive actions from letter writing campaigns to congressional hearings, aimed at discrediting or otherwise undermining the news media or independent sources. An example of this is the campaign by the fossil fuel industry to try and drown out and discredit the voices of climate scientists.
  5. Fear: originally “anti-communism”, given the context of 1980s America, fear refers to the creation of an anti-ideology to exploit the fear or hatred of a public enemy. This filter mobilizes the population against a common enemy while demonizing opponents of state policy as insufficiently patriotic or in league with the enemy.

The Limitations of the Model in Pluralistic Societies

In summary

The Model in Russia

The Model Recapped

  • Ownership: Almost all media is consolidated underneath State control
  • Advertising: Is not as significant within Russia (particularly the flagship RT), and significant funds are directly received from the State. This creates a lack of diversity in accountabilities and thus viewpoints.
  • Sourcing: going beyond a symbiotic relationship with the state, RT views itself as intrinsically and strategically linked with the State.
  • Flak: The above three points make RT and other government controlled sources virtually immune from Flak.
  • Fear: Rather than an ideology of anti-communism or anti-terrorism, Russian media (again, particularly RT) channel the ethos of a revisionist state, looking to upset and unbalance the established order: one of conspiracy and cynicism. (This itself would be an interesting article to write)

Sources

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