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Noam Chomsky: The Five Filters of Mass Media

Noam Chomsky: The Five Filters of Mass Media


Mainstream media today has the most power to shape public opinion. It is to blame for how people perceive the world in general. The media of today fails to remain only objective observers, but instead actively influences society through their reporting and analysis. What we frequently confuse for reality is only a made-up world. Simply put, this manufactured reality is what media organizations want us to know and believe. Every story has two sides, but the media only presents the one they think we should see—the one that is most practical and advantageous for them. To further understand, what is the exact role of modern-day media in influencing public opinion? First, we need to understand what perpetuates the suppression of truth and the factors that affect reporting and analysis. Hence, this article will use Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s propaganda model to understand the role of media in the contemporary world.

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Noam Chomsky and Herman Edward offers a useful framework for analyzing how the media works. The five filters in the model that affect editorial bias continue to be useful today, in the 21st century, despite having been written in the 1990s. It aids in our comprehension of the organization of the news. With the help of propaganda, this model aims to explain "how populations are controlled and how public consent for economic, social, and political policies is generated" (Wajid, 2019). In contrast to providing the general public with high-quality news, it sees "private media as enterprises concerned with the sale of a product to readers, viewers, and listeners" (Wajid, 2019). This indicates that in this capitalist society, media outlets are more focused on increasing their profit than on providing the public with accurate information and high-quality news.

The Five Filters of the Propaganda Model:


According to Chomsky and Herman, major firms and businesses frequently operate as mass media. To preserve the company's interests, the media outlets must filter out material that is provided to the general public. As a result, news undergoes a process of "self-censorship." A concept of interest arises because any news that augurs well for the company is encouraged, while any news that could harm the image of the company is filtered out (Chomsky and Herman, 1988). For example, in Pakistan, the PTV news channel is owned by the government of Pakistan, and therefore, PTV only shows positive attributes and news about the government and the situation in the country, no matter how bad the situation is. Furthermore, the UK’s media is also owned by five rich billionaires, namely Richard Desmond, Jonathan Harmsworth, the 4th Viscount Rothermere, Sir David Rowat Barclay, Sir Frederick Hugh Barclay, and Rupert Murdoch. These five billionaires who run the United Kingdom’s media have huge power in a democracy, forcing the UK’s political parties to prioritize their wishes over the wishes of the British public. They own 80% of the UK’s newspapers.


Media outlets must make tough advertising decisions to survive. The success and expansion of the media company are dependent on this income. The revenue generated by advertisements is greater than the revenue generated by purchases and subscriptions. The media company will either raise the price of its product or halt production if it cannot cover its production costs and generate a profit as an incentive. In a market with so much competition, raising the product's selling price might not be successful since consumers will migrate to other, more positive options. Therefore, in order to satisfy the advice media outlets must considercial that the media outlets consider the economic, political, and social preferences of the income coming in. Because they are worried about losing them as marketers, this is reflected in the messaging distributed to the general public.


Media organizations cannot afford to station journalists all over the world since the next big story could emerge at any time, anywhere in the world. Instead, media organizations station journalists and staff at places like the Supreme and High Courts, the Parliament House, etc. where news stories are most likely to go viral. They "get into a symbiotic relationship with multiple sources of knowledge" as a result (Neel, 2019). They are forced into these partnerships due to a lack of other options. These sources are regarded as reliable, and any journalist or media outlet that casts doubt on their veracity risks offending them and losing access to future material. As a result, the media refrains from publishing any stories that could In other circumstances, they run tales without verifying the veracity of their sources because of the interests of their informants. Examples of such sources include commercial organizations, public relations firms, and government spokespersons.


Flak refers to a negative response to a media statement (Chomsky and Herman 1988). Any media outlet that receives criticism, whether n the form of grievances, litigation, or disciplinary legislative actions, could suffer harm. The government, corporations, advertising, or other people may file such complaints or take such steps. The cost of going to court to defend oneself when a media outlet is under fire could be very expensive. Additionally, they risk losing advertising revenue because many companies are likely to withdraw. Take the highly publicized Rafale deal between the Indian government and France. Anil Ambani, the owner of Reliance Infrastructure, filed defamation suits against multiple news media outlets for raising "uncomfortable" questions and issues about the deal. These suits led to the media houses facing severe losses.

Anti Communism:

To make the public accept authority, oftentimes artificial fears are created for the public (Chomsky and Herman 1988). The "fear of the enemy" filter is another name for the anti-communism filter. Recently, the media has frequently been charged with promoting citizen vigilantism. Numerous locals guided how to spot "seditious intellectuals hiding in plain sight" (Wajid, 2019).

To conclude, media outlets today find it incredibly difficult to circumvent the five restrictions. They eventually have to submit to some, if not alltolters to develop and survive in the face of competition. In a nation like Pakistan, where the majority of the people lack access to education and are thus prone to falling into the media's traps, the media has even more ability to sway public opinion. Most people rely on these media outlets to provide them with information, and they base their decisions on the news they receive from them. If anyone has the option to bypass these five filters, it is independent journalists. While all of the filters affect the news we receive today, in my opinion, ownership—the first filter—has the greatest impact on the news we receive. A rural man, for instance, who lacks access to schooling, will depend on newspapers and radios for information. His beliefs and ideas about current events will be shaped by the newspaper or radio station he listens to most frequently. The news he learns from these sources will be determined by the media outlet's owners. As a result, the news he receives will be greatly skewed, particularly in terms of politics, as the majority of the nation's media outlets, particularly local ones, are owned by individuals with political ties. Therefore, he will have prejudiced thoughts and ideas and will unknowingly support the party that controls the media outlet that serves as his source of news. As a result, he will cast his vote for that party without thinking, come election time. Political parties can therefore influence and control the country's vote share in this way. They may easily gain power and rule the country if they have a sizable portion of the populace under their control thanks to their propaganda.
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