Academic journal article Journal of Political Studies

Herman and Chomsky's Propaganda Model: Its Application on Electronic Media and Journalists in Pakistan

Academic journal article Journal of Political Studies

Herman and Chomsky's Propaganda Model: Its Application on Electronic Media and Journalists in Pakistan

Article excerpt


Generally, scholars writing on the political economy of media make top-down analysis of the media scene.1This assumption could not be overlooked in the study of many classic accounts concerning media ownership, corporate interests, mergers and lack of heterogeneity in media content especially in Pakistan. Herman and Chomsky's (1988) propaganda model is no exception to this culture, which we use as a theoretical framework of this study. Despite providing an effective framework for addressing key areas of the political economy, the model invites critique from many scholars (Hallin 1994;Holsti & Rosenau, 174; Klaehn 2002, p. 147-182; Romano, 1989).2 These scholars argue that Herman and Chomsky (1988) promote a mechanical and functionalist approach. Herman and Chomsky (1982) acknowledge leaving out many factors at secondary level by not making them the subject of their analysis. According to Chomsky's biographer Rai (1997) said: "The kind of micro-analyses is not the task of the Propaganda Model.

The model provides an overview of the system at work, making sense out of a confusing picture by extracting the main principles of the system (p. 46).

Keeping in view the scholarly arguments and counterarguments, it is fair to say that propaganda model cannot be held responsible for addressing all issues of media. Still we argue that analysis informing the political economy of media is incomplete if we ignore the role of secondary and ground levels influences. On this account if macro-level analysis of the propaganda model could be held as strengths of the model, disconnect from ground realities isits weakness. And in order for political economy to connect with the bottom it is imperative for scholars to recognize and acknowledge those small details in which lays the element of resistance against power. In view of this consideration the question we want to ask is: what social and cultural factors are behind constituting journalists' spirit of resistance and what mobilization do these factors creates in field journalists in Pakistan? Also, how does this kind of resistance associates with reporter's everyday spent in Pakistan's media field?

In exploring these questions we want to engage with propaganda model at two different levels: from macro-level we are taking the model down up to the base level Bourdieu (1993) called Field. For macro-level analysis we offer the burgeoning news media of Pakistan as a case study. We will then analyze decisions of the commercial media in the light of reporting carried out by local reporters in the conflict zone called the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA).Let us first explain the two different contexts as part of the same media system (in Pakistan). We then will explain key elements of the propaganda model before offering actual field situation to later connect top decisions with reporting at the bottom (field).

Commercialization of Airwaves in Pakistan

Through a presidential ordinance in 2000, the former military President Pervez Musharaf passed a law to facilitate electronic media privatization in Pakistan. This development brought an effective end to official monopoly on electronic news media. In the next few years the authorities licensed 129 FM radio stations, 87 television channels, six MMDS, and a host of cable television operators and other broadcast facilities such as IPTV, DTH, and teleporting (PEMRA, 2012). This wave of privatization coincides with Musharraf's decision to join the US-led war on terror. Critical media scholar McChesney (2004) wrote extensively to define the self-evident "direct link between control over the media and control over the society" (p. 17). For McChesney (2004) commercial media typically derive legitimacy from progressive social reforms and public welfare, but role of commercial media are always anti-public. Since media reside at the center of power struggle, therefore, McChesney (2004) argues that connecting media owners to power politics is vital to understand what kind of force media is? …

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