Ideology – Media

Lesson objectiveTo explore different perspectives for media
Lesson outcomes• Assess the different models and their significance
• Evaluate the impact
• Explain what different perspectives believe

This section applies perspectives to the media. The examiner can try to trick you so pay attention as to how the perspectives can be called something else. In order to understand the information below, the following key concepts are needed:

  1. Morley (1999) coined the term preferred (dominant reading). These are the interpretations or the messages that those producing media content want audiences to believe.
  2. The dominant ideology is, in essence, the beliefs of the bourgeoisie.
  3. Ideological State Apparatus (Althusser) are the agencies that spread the dominant ideology e.g. education.
  4. False consciousness is the acceptance of this ideology by society who believes that the order of society is the only way.

The Manipulative/ Instrumental/ Marxist approach

  • Media owners directly influence media content and manipulate information to ensure the dominant ideology is spread. The media purposely creates distorted preferred readings to create different beliefs in society distracting them from wider issues.
  • Editors, managers and journalists all have to do their job which is governed by media owners. They are not to blame.
  • Media audiences are provided undemanding, trivial and uncritical content forcing society to be less challenging and more accepting of society.
  • The Leveson Inquiry in 2012 highlighted links between media owners and governments. Governments who promised lenient policies to corporations were provided with positive news.


  • It assumes that all audiences are passive.
  • Disagree with Pluralists who argue the the media is comprised of a wide range of options. The purpose of the media is the make a profit therefore it wants to attract a wide range of audiences.
  • The state has regulatory bodies protecting audiences from being dominated.
  • Pluralists and neophilliacs suggest that citizen journalism controls the media by ensuring a wide range of viewpoints are heard.

The Dominant ideology/ Hegemonic approach/ Neo-Marxist approach

The Neo-Marxist approach mostly uses ideas from the Glasgow Media Group (GMG) and believes the following:

  • Mass Media does spread a dominant ideology of the bourgeoisie.
  • The media creates a hegemony (Gramsci) by convincing society that the dominant ideology is “normal”.
  • Media owners do not directly control media managers and editors, however, because of demographics e.g. all degree education, mostly white male, they generally choose to accept the dominant ideology anyway.
  • The GMG identifies the media acts int two related ways reinforcing and protecting the dominant ideology.
    • (By gatekeeping) – omitting certain reports from the public.
    • (By agenda-setting) – Focusing audience attention on specific issues.
  • Media managers sometimes set a policy of seeming critical to advertise its newspapers promoting profits (reaching out to people). This is carefully managed and is more of a performance and reality.


Philo (2012) illustrates this in a study of media coverage of the global banking crisis. The media presented news mentioning only solutions by the three main parties and the banks, but these were the very people who created the problem. There should have been wider coverage.


  • Owners have more power than Neo-Marxists believe and staff who do not share the values of owners can be dismissed.
  • Agenda setting and gate-keeping is basically from the Marxist approach and thus shares the same criticisms that not all consumers are passive.
  • Pluralists still argue that the rise of citizen journalism limits the control of the media.


  • Media content is driven by consumerism and therefore what the people want controls the media.
  • There is a wide range of diversity ensuring high numbers of audiences.
  • Ofcom prevents domination or manipulation.
  • Audiences are active not passive.
  • Citizen journalism controls the media as it stops manipulation.


Postmodernists agree with the Pluralist approach and say that society are free to pick and mix in their interpretations of news stories.


  • Owners constrain journalists meaning there is some form of control.
  • Stories are mostly about powerful individuals ensuring the dominant ideology is spread.
  • Only wealthy businessmen (mostly upper class) have the money to create newspapers and TV channels meaning they are all bourgeoisie.
  • The media, in an attempt to gain audience, dumb down news to make it more accessible thus limiting challenge.
  • ISAs force culture onto individuals. What individuals think they want is actually what the bourgeoisie want. Society is unable to challenge.

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