American Television Manufacturing Consumerism

University of Westminster Press
Chapter Title: American Television: Manufacturing Consumerism
Chapter Author(s): Tabe Bergman
Book Subtitle: Filtering Perception and Awareness
Book Editor(s): Joan Pedro-Carañana, Daniel Broudy, Jeffery Klaehn
Published by: University of Westminster Press. (2018)
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American Television:
Manufacturing Consumerism
Tabe Bergman
11.1 Introduction
Television plays a central, highly visible role in American society as well as
across the globe. It is little wonder then that scores of scholars have examined
television in all its facets and from a wide range of perspectives. Equally unsurprising,
the conclusions have been diverse. Despite the flood of scholarship,
as far as the author can tell, devising a critical model of the political economy
of American television has not been a focus, although critical political economists,
and scholars often cited by them, have of course studied popular culture
and television. This chapter, then, provides a critical political-economic model
of American television. It introduces a Propaganda Model for American Television
(PMTV) by adapting the five filters of Herman and Chomsky’s Propaganda
Model (PM) to the American television industry and programming.
How to cite this book chapter:
Bergman, T. 2018. American Television: Manufacturing Consumerism. In:
J., Broudy, D. and Klaehn, J. (eds.). The Propaganda Model
Today: Filtering Perception and Awareness. Pp. 159–172. London: University
of Westminster Press. DOI: License:
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160 The Propaganda Model Today
11.2 A Propaganda Model for American Television (PMTV)
11.2.1 Filter One: Private Ownership and Pro-business Regulation
Not just television news but all programming is ultimately the product of a few
corporations. Setting up a television station requires a large amount of capital,
which severely limits who can do so. The freedom to influence American culture
by broadcasting television thus belongs to the happy few who own and run
the handful of corporations that dominate the American market and, thus, the
public mind. Additionally, they control many other media holdings, including
radio stations, magazines, film studios, cable channels, and so on.1 Often
they bundle their forces in joint ventures. Virtually everyone else is effectively
barred from entering the market, though on occasion an independent production
breaks into the mainstream.
The television corporations belong to even larger conglomerates. For instance,
NBC is owned by telecom giant Comcast and by the Walt Disney Company.
The people who own and manage these corporations and conglomerates are
wealthy and have definite domestic and foreign policy interests, which they
often successfully promote in Washington DC through an army of lobbyists.
They often have connections at the highest levels. For instance, Disney’s CEO
advised President Donald Trump.2
Unlike with print journalism, the Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) has the legal right and duty to regulate US broadcasting in the public
interest. The constitutional freedom of the press clause has no bearing on fictional
shows and other non-news programming. The FCC prohibits cursing
and what it considers excessive nudity, especially during the day and primetime.
More to the point, the FCC holds the authority to distribute and revoke
broadcast licenses, and to prevent excessive market concentration by setting
limits on cross-ownership and the market share that any one entity is allowed
to control.
Potentially, then, the special legal status of broadcasting allows the FCC to
take action to ensure that programming serves the interests of the population.
Public broadcaster PBS is an underfunded, largely unsuccessful attempt to do
just that. The central problem is that the FCC has been effectively co-opted by
the media industries it purports to regulate, as illustrated by the revolving door
between them. Many FCC commissioners and staffers have gone on to work
for media corporations, while many employees of media corporations have
accepted positions at the FCC.3
Unsurprisingly, the television industry usually, though not always, gets its
way in Washington DC.4 For instance, the deregulation of the television industry
in the 1990s was a boon to corporations, causing ‘all the small [production]
businesses [to fall] apart as big TV corporations moved production in-house
so that they could sell texts on through infinite other territories and media.’5 In
short, federal regulation provides crucial support to the television industry in
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American Television: Manufacturing Consumerism 161
its never-ending quest for more and more profit. The policy-making process
has been captured and co-opted by big business, showing the tight and mutually
reinforcing connections between capital and the state in American society.
Hence private ownership and regulation make up the first filter together.
11.2.2 Filter Two: Advertising
Advertising is the lifeblood of American television. About a quarter of total
broadcast time consists of commercials.6 Television additionally features covert
advertising, known as product placements. With programming, corporations
first amass and then sell audiences to other corporations, the advertisers.
The audience thinks of itself as a mass of consumers, but from the perspective
of media owners it is the product. If shows prove unable to attract a sizeable,
preferably affluent audience – and thus the interest of advertisers – they run a
high risk of getting cancelled. From a program’s inception particular attention
is therefore paid to creating narratives that support the ‘buying mood.’ Advertisers,
big businesses for the most part, generally do not appreciate complicated,
socially-engaged programming, especially the kind critical of capitalism.7 In
short, the needs and demands of advertisers are central to understanding what’s
on. Television is ‘an effective corporate instrument, whose sole purpose – as its
executives will tell you – is to sell you to the advertisers.’8
It has been like this since the very beginning. In the early years, advertisers
even produced the shows themselves, and this still happens on occasion.9
The demands of advertising of course influence programming. This is why
programs often play up, or at least do not damp, the many supposed joys of
consumption. For instance, as Mark Crispin Miller explains, advertisers prefer
programming to avoid ‘dark suggestiveness’:
For advertisers are obsessed not just with selling their own specific
images but also with universalizing the whole hermetic ambience for
selling itself – the pseudo-festive, mildly jolting, ultimately tranquilizing
atmosphere of TV and its bright epiphenomena, the theme park and the
shopping mall.10
In this age of advertising glut, television sometimes consciously provokes to
garner attention, for instance by showing gay people kiss. Reality shows are
some of the main culprits:
TV execs believe that the more they bait advocacy groups like NOW,
the NAACP, and GLAAD, the more controversy a show will generate.
Offensiveness = hype = increased eyeballs for advertisers and cash for
networks, making outrageous bigotry less a by-product of reality TV
than its blueprint.11
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162 The Propaganda Model Today
In short, both in the past and the present, per the second filter, advertisers supply
networks with a de facto licence which permits the networks to remain in
show business. Or not.
11.2.3 Filter Three: The Rules and Conventions of Production
The following discussion of a number of American television’s conventions and
rules of production intends not to be comprehensive, but merely indicative of
how the production process primarily serves the needs of advertisers and the
television industry, rarely the interests of citizens. First, it should be noted that
the production process is, to a large extent, top down. Making television has
always been typified by the ‘characteristic modes of production’ and the hierarchical
‘organization of industrial corporations.’12 For instance, that shining
symbol of American entertainment, Walt Disney, introduced a highly compartmentalised,
factory-like process for producing animations.13 Industry deregulation
in the 1990s strengthened management’s hold on production. From
then on, ‘The people who made the creative decisions about everything from
storylines to wallpaper were overridden again and again by men in suits who
lacked relevant expertise.’14 In short, and with exceptions, television’s creative
intelligentsia are totally free to produce what they like – as long as their bosses
like what they produce.
‘Common sense’ notions as to what constitutes gripping television guide the
production process. One of these is that rapid movement works well on the
screen. Enter acts of violence, car and other chases, and special effects. The violence
is almost always person-on-person and committed for personal motives,
including the virtually ubiquitous revenge. Never mind that taking revenge
plays a distinctly minor role in motivating people’s behaviour in the actual
world. The crux to understanding television is realizing that it resembles more
of a fun house mirror than an ordinary one. Television thrives when the focus is
on individuals, with plenty of opportunity for close-ups conveying stark emotions.
Shots are kept short, not to say ultra-short, as the act of changing shots
and thereby the viewer’s perspective is a tested way of keeping eyeballs glued
to the screen. It’s simple physiology. Too much information, on the other hand,
confuses the screen. In short, commercial television focuses on depicting individuals
and providing compelling images, with the result that the content tends
to be superficial and more about conveying emotions than explicating ideas.
Much more than print journalism, making television is a long, collective
undertaking. The vision of the screenwriter, the true creative, often gets diluted
by the subsequent persons that revise the original work with an eye on the
bottom line. The original work gets ‘mainstreamed’: made more palatable for
the market. The short length of shows, which in part is a result of the need to
reserve time for commercials, together with their highly formulaic structure,
probably limit the ability to tell non-stereotypical stories. Sitcoms, for instance,
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American Television: Manufacturing Consumerism 163
are only about 22 minutes long and adhere to a rigid, almost minute-by-minute
Like corporate journalists, then, the individuals working in television production
are highly restricted in their creativity. They need to honour the common
conventions and rules of production, which are enforced by management
with the bottom line in mind. On occasion, the process produces (or rather
allows) enlightening or subversive programming. A tiny number of writers and
actors has reached such an exalted status that they can push through projects
that normally would not stand a chance. Yet most of the time, the production
process serves the interests of owners and advertisers. In short, the business
of television strongly prefers the profitable predictability of business as usual.
11.2.4 Filter Four: Overt and Covert Influence
Aside from media corporations themselves, and regulators and advertisers,
many other organizations and institutions are profoundly concerned with, and
try to influence, television content. Congressional hearings on supposed communist
subversion in Hollywood right after World War II sent a chill through
the entertainment industry by making suspect anything that smacked of progressivism.
All through the Cold War, state agencies influenced television and
movies, often with the active cooperation of the networks. The CIA has a long
and successful history of influencing, behind the scenes, its image in movies
and television shows.16 Right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, executives from
Hollywood and the major television networks met with a top advisor of President
George W. Bush. The goal of the meeting reportedly was ‘to discuss how
the entertainment industry could cooperate in the war on terrorism and to
begin setting up a structure to make it happen.’17
It is no different today, as files released by the Department of Defense show:
The sheer scale of the Army and the Air Force’s involvement in TV
shows, particularly reality TV shows, is the most remarkable thing about
these files. ‘American Idol,’ ‘The X-Factor,’ ‘Masterchef,’ ‘Cupcake Wars,’
numerous Oprah Winfrey shows, ‘Ice Road Truckers,’ ‘Battlefield Priests,’
‘America’s Got Talent,’ ‘Hawaii Five-O,’ lots of BBC, History Channel and
National Geographic documentaries, ‘War Dogs,’ ‘Big Kitchens’ — the
list is almost endless.18
State agencies, thus, frequently enlist the entertainment industry, including television,
in information campaigns, which are likely to be all the more effective
for not easily being identifiable as such.
In addition, various kinds of pressure groups on both the left and the right
organise campaigns to influence content. The conservative Parents Television
Council mounted so many successful campaigns against broadcasters that the
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164 The Propaganda Model Today
New York Times once dubbed it a ‘superstar in the culture wars.’ The Council
was responsible for ‘record-setting fines against media giants like CBS’ as
punishment for programming that supposedly crossed the line, for instance as
to profanities or nudity.19 Yet, in the final analysis, broadcasters probably care
more about displaying shapely bottoms to pad bottom lines than catering to
the sensibilities of cultural conservatives, or anyone else for that matter. In the
aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 a media expert remarked on the difficulty
for the Parents Television Council ‘to stir up indignation about cultural
issues at a time of economic woe.’20 Additionally, compared to the state and big
corporations, the resources at the disposal of pressure groups are paltry. They
are likely to lose out, in the end, to the needs of capital.
11.2.5 Filter Five: Neoliberalism as a Control Mechanism
Neoliberalism is America’s dominant ideology. It is a worldview that includes
the core belief that private interests can do just about anything better than the
state. With its opposition to social welfare programs, unions, public education,
and idolization of the individual and ‘free markets,’ neoliberalism serves the
interests of economic elites, including media owners. Just like ‘anti-communism’
during the Cold War, the ideology called neoliberalism
helps mobilise the populace against an enemy, and because the concept
is fuzzy it can be used against anybody advocating policies that threaten
property interests or support accommodation with [left-wing] states
and radicalism. It therefore helps fragment the left and labour movements
and serves as a political control mechanism.21
The people involved in creating programming will, to some extent, be believers
in American society’s dominant myths taught in school and by the media. And
many people working in the television industry, especially the higher-ups, will
have ‘fully internalised’ neoliberal values.22 Dissenters will encounter opposition
in a myriad of subtle or overt ways. It is, thus, logical to expect programming
to reflect neoliberal biases.
Indeed, neoliberalism pervades much television content. The iconic Oprah
Winfrey Show, with its incessant refrain of self-reliance and self-help, is a shining
example.23 Many reality shows, including The Apprentice starring the future
American president, mirror the neoliberal vision of society. The few at the top
advise, criticise and disdain. From Olympian heights, they pronounce harsh
verdicts on the countless aspirants, who desperately compete among each other
in the vain hope of one day reaching an exalted position themselves. Cooperation
often ends up with deceit, which teaches a valuable lesson. In the quest
for fame and fortune that is every American’s Reagan-given right, if not duty,
no one can be trusted. We are all lone individuals trying to make it big in the
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American Television: Manufacturing Consumerism 165
only way society affords. Cooking competitions mirror the worker’s precarious
position in a neoliberal economy by depicting cooking as a ‘strictly regimented,
highly individuated, labour hierarchy within an economic circuit.’24 Extreme
makeover shows often promulgate individual solutions to problems, like obesity,
that have an inescapable social dimension.
Dramas also often affirm neoliberal articles of faith. They bubble over with
depictions of physical or emotional blackmail, violence, manipulation, and
assertions of authority. Time and again the moral of the story appears to be that
individuals simply pursue their own self-interest, which is necessarily distinct
from and in opposition to everybody else’s. The popular crime series CSI, for
instance, ‘promises a form of governance that appeals to a post-9/11 society in
which mitigating factors of social life are rendered irrelevant. On CSI, the state
has or will fail the citizen, but science cannot.’25 The hospital series House, with
its recurring mantra that ‘Everybody lies,’ also portrays other people as necessarily
hostile and selfish, and preaches a belief in science. Much content, thus,
primes viewers to think in neoliberal terms, before, during and after which
advertisers tickle status anxiety, generously providing the instant ‘scratch’ of
The PM highlights what was not chosen as fit for print. So it is instructive
to consider not just what American television is, but also what it is not. For
only then the ideological limits that its ‘invisible’ political economy imposes
on content become clearly discernible. Television is hardly concerned with the
plight of the dozens of millions of poor people in the US. It is not anti-capitalist,
anti-corporate or even merely critical of capitalism. It hardly criticises US foreign
policy or the many wars the US has been involved in; in fact, it has often
cheered the armed forces on. It rarely portrays unions or other social organizations
in a positive light. It can hardly be deemed democratic, because it rarely
portrays citizens successfully coming together to improve their lives.
11.3 Additional Thoughts on a PMTV
11.3.1 Television as Technology
The PM identifies factors that influence information across media, but a PMTV
models a medium. Thus, the influence of the technology of television needs to
be considered. In the author’s view, the medium influences the content. As earlier
noted, television makers know that rapid movements on the screen make
for more gripping television than static ‘talking heads.’ So, it is unsurprising that
programming has greatly sped up over the years. Quite a few contemporary
viewers will find it hard to watch old movies, because of their leisurely pace.
The question is whether the technology or commercialism is the driving force,
or rather, to which extent each can be considered responsible. In the author’s
opinion, where technology ends and capitalism begins, is impossible to tell. The
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166 The Propaganda Model Today
issue appears intractable beyond the observation that television’s technological
characteristics to some extent influence content. Technology’s influence is subsumed
in the PMTV’s third filter, for technology’s assumed characteristics help
shape the rules and conventions of production.
11.3.2 The Uses of Television
Apart from content and technology, other features of the phenomenon of
television broadly conceived also promote inimical values and behaviours.
For instance, the widespread association of television with the home might
reinforce in people a view of society as nothing but separate individuals with
competing interests. There is, of course, nothing inevitable in the widespread
practice of watching TV at home alone, although capitalism certainly has had
a hand in stimulating the idea that the good life constitutes owning one’s own
home, car, lawnmower, television, and so on. These days, mobile television
affords watching in many places, but the smallness of the screen still favours
watching alone. On the other hand, social media do stimulate sharing content
and interaction. To be clear, the ways people use television are not part of a
11.3.3 Methodology: Comparing the PM and PMTV
Compared with the original model, a PMTV has a notable methodological
weakness. After describing the political economy of the news media, Herman
and Chomsky prove in detail that the biases one would expect the American
news to exhibit can indeed be found. First, they identify ‘paired examples,’
for instance two sets of atrocities of similar scale occurring at about the same
time, the main difference being that one is committed by Washington or
with its complicity, and the other by an enemy state. Then, they document
that the news media treat these two similar series of events very differently.
When Washington is implicated in crimes, coverage is sparse and condemnation
mild at best, whereas when official enemies are the culprits, coverage
is plentiful and condemning. Unfortunately, such a sophisticated method
is unavailable for a PMTV. Herman and Chomsky disprove much of the
mainstream media’s coverage with facts from more reliable and independent
sources, but because fiction cannot be proven factually right or wrong, the
same cannot be done for American television as a whole. As to evidence,
then, the PM is more convincing than a PMTV. Yet, an added value of a
PMTV is that it contextualises the PM. A PMTV provides a critical evaluation
of the programming that surrounds, arguably overwhelms, television
news. A PMTV, thus, helps explain the media environment in which the PM
is embedded.
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American Television: Manufacturing Consumerism 167
11.3.4 Strength: Comparing the PM and PMTV
The PMTV’s filters perhaps function as even more potent censorship mechanisms
than the PM’s. The PMTV’s first, second and third filters – ownership and
regulation, advertising, and the production rules and conventions – are unrestrained
by professional journalism’s norm of a separation between management
and editors. In other words, because pandering to advertisers is simply an
integral part of television’s business model, it might be that a PMTV is stronger
than the PM. The same goes for the fourth filter, overt and covert influence on
the television industry. Among television producers one might expect less reticence
to cooperate openly or behind the scenes with state agencies than among
journalists. One might also expect the former to be more amenable to influence
by other organizations, unless the supreme right to make money is challenged.
As to the fifth filter, both television’s creators and journalists have a reputation
for liberal politics. Beyond that observation, we can only speculate as to the relative
strength of the respective fifth filters. One might argue for instance that, compared
to the news, dramas contain more opportunities for and actual instances of
fundamental criticisms of society. For the driving force behind drama is conflict.
The need for stark conflict opens the door for perspectives that challenge received
wisdom. Yet, even if this point has merit, it remains doubtful that fictionalised criticism
leads to a more socially engaged audience. Perhaps its consumption often has
the opposite effect, amounting to just another form of escapism through catharsis.
11.3.5 American Television: Aim and Effects
There can be no dispute as to what American television aims for. Those in
charge have clearly explained. The goal is to sell people’s attention to large
corporations that promote buying stuff, experiences, and services. Corporate
television, thus, attempts to manufacture consumerism. Draping itself in the
flag, especially during times of war and other crises, television routinely links
consumerism with patriotism. Corporate television happily relayed President
George W. Bush’s admonition in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that Americans
continue shopping, to show the terrorists that they were not cowed. Consumerism,
of course, does not serve the public’s interests. In fact, much empirical
evidence shows that it damages people’s mental and physical health.26
Corporate television provides an additional crucial service to elites by inundating
people with depoliticizing entertainment. It is the Great Distraction
Machine. As one of the foremost thinkers on propaganda, Jacques Ellul, noted
in the late 1980s:
Today the greatest threat is that propaganda is seeking not to attract
but to weaken their interest in society. I am astonished by the
number of TV game shows, football games, computer games.
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168 The Propaganda Model Today
They encourage
people to play: ‘Let yourselves be entertained, amuse yourselves,
do not concern yourselves with politics, it’s not worth the trouble.’27
This second service, too, is rendered not without premeditation. As the late
founder of the Mexican network Televisa frankly proclaimed: ‘Mexico is a
country of a modest, very fucked class, which will never stop being fucked.
has the obligation to bring diversion to these people and remove
them from their sad reality and difficult future.’28
How effective is American television in stimulating consumerism and depoliticizing
citizens? Like the original PM, a PMTV is not an effects model. It
remains silent on the extent to which American television succeeds. Indeed,
empirically establishing media effects is tricky. On the individual level, effects
are mediated by a myriad of factors, including gender, religion, education, age,
and so on. Even after thousands of studies much uncertainty and controversy
remain.29 Nonetheless, Americans clearly live in a depoliticised, consumerist
society. To imagine American television washing its hands in innocence of all
that does not seem right at all. An American businessman once famously complained
that, ‘Half my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.’30 Usually,
this statement is trotted out to illustrate the difficulty of influencing people
with media or establishing media effects. But, if one half of the money spent on
advertising is wasted, then the other half is not. The statement, thus, simultaneously
points out a truth that probably all media influencers have discovered: the
media do in fact influence people.
11.4 Addressing Objections to a PMTV
Some will reject a PMTV. Here, five anticipated objections are discussed. One,
a PMTV is only a general model, a first approximation, for understanding
American television. A PMTV surveys the television industry and captures
the thrust of the programming, but recognises that social reality is endlessly
complicated and that exceptions exist. To point to examples of anti-neoliberal
content on American television, for instance, thus constitutes an unconvincing
argument for dismissing the model.
Two, advancing a PMTV is not meant to imply that people who enjoy watching
television, including the author, are therefore stupid or inferior. People can
love American television – wholely but more likely in part – while at the same
time cultivating a critical distance as to its overall social function. Three, some
will object to the word ‘propaganda,’ with its connotations of conscious duplicity.
But the word means not to suggest that the television industry is populated
with conscious propagandists, although some owners and producers will
knowingly act as propagandists some of the time. The term is still apt because it
is often defined, including here, as exerting influence that serves special interests
as opposed to the public interest.31
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American Television: Manufacturing Consumerism 169
Four, a PMTV does not contend that American television serves a conservative
agenda on cultural matters. Television has, in fact, become more progressive
on a range of issues, for instance playing a role in promoting the social
acceptance of gay relationships, however problematic the portrayals often
remain. A PMTV does contend that on issues that directly affect the interests
of elites, for instance the economy, television remains a steadfast supporter of
the status quo.
Five, some will assert that recent changes in society, including the rise of
the internet and streaming services, undermine a PMTV. Certainly, much has
changed since the broadcast era. In this digital age, viewers can enjoy an ample
array of quality shows and have more control over when and where they watch.
No wonder that some have talked of television’s New Golden Age. But as a late
media columnist for the New York Times recognised, there is a dark side: ‘Television’s
golden age is also a gilded cage, an always-on ecosystem of immense
riches that leaves me feeling less like the master of my own universe, and more
as if I am surrounded.’32 Indeed, in an age of climate change, with progressive
change possibly necessary for survival, the recent flood of quality programming
poses a peculiar problem. Depoliticizing programming so enjoyable that
many people, including hard-to-please viewers like professional media columnists,
simply cannot resist, constitutes bad news for the prospects of change
instigated by an engaged citizenry.
The rapid permutations taking place in the television industry perhaps affect
the efficacy of a PMTV because, for instance, consumers can now easily block
advertising. Yet, apart from a PMTV not being an effects model, the changes
hardly threaten the television industry or its dominance, and therefore also do
not threaten the analytical viability of a PMTV. Streaming services like Hulu
are growing rapidly but are still dwarfed by traditional delivery channels.33
Networks and cable channels supply the bulk of the offerings on streaming
services. Leading streaming service Netflix is itself a publicly-traded global
enterprise. It has dispensed with commercials, but other streaming services,
including Hulu, which are owned by traditional television powerhouses, in part
depend on them.
The television industry, thus, remains a highly concentrated, corporate
undertaking buttressed by pro-business regulation. It remains firmly in elite
hands. Although the relative importance of advertising as a revenue source
is on the decline, it remains crucially important. Programming is still a commodity.
34 The television industry is still influenced by a myriad of powerful
organizations, including state intelligence agencies, and they promote neoliberal
ideology. Viewers do currently enjoy more convenient access to television
and more control over how to consume it. Although liberating in a way, these
innovations also deepen television’s reach into the everyday fabric of people’s
lives. Once upon a time, we could run away from the television set. These days,
who runs without a smart phone? Television also remains profitable and popular,
although perhaps not all is well on the horizon.35 In 2014, the average
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170 The Propaganda Model Today
over fifteen years old watched almost three hours of television per
day.36 Baseball is often referred to as America’s national pastime, but would it
not be more accurate to grant watching television that honour? How, after all,
do most Americans watch their games?
11.5 Conclusion
The internet is turning out to be mostly a faux threat to the television industry.
Compared to the 1990s, when many observers were sanguine about the
democratic potential of the internet, elites have made great strides in incorporating
the internet in existing power structures. Intrusive surveillance practices
are shifting much of the power early internet users once had to comment
and organise back to elites. Commercialism runs rampant online. Google and
Facebook depend on advertisers too. A mutually beneficial synergy has developed
between the television industry and the internet giants, including Google,
which owns advertising-supported YouTube. The website has become an additional
treasured outlet for mainstream channels.37
In other words, it is unlikely that the mere availability of certain technologies
will upend a PMTV as long as the five filters, especially the first two, remain
in place. Hope, such as there is, lies with the coming together of people who
realise the need for change, and who will employ the available technologies not
for tuning out the crucial issues of the day by tuning into American television,
but for raising critical awareness and organizing resistance.
Notes and Bibliography
1 Free Press, Who Owns the Media? Accessed 19 February 19, http://www.
2 Peter Bradshaw, Hollywood Isn’t 100% Anti-Trump. Isn’t It Time For Some
Internal Dissent? The Guardian, 1 February 2017, accessed February 9, 2017,
3 Michael Hiltzik (2014), Comcast deploys its army of revolving-door lobbyists
against the FCC, LA Times, 27 May accessed 15 April 2017, http://www.
4 Andrew Calabrese and Colleen Mihal (2011), The Public-Private Dichotomy
in Media Policy, in The Handbook of Political Economy of Communications,
ed. Janet Wasko, Graham Murdock and Helena Sousa (Chichester:
5 Toby Miller (2010), Television Studies: The Basics, New York: Routledge,
2010, Kindle edition, 66.
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American Television: Manufacturing Consumerism 171
6 Joe Flint (2014), TV Networks Load Up on Commercials, LA Times, 12
May accessed 18 February 2017,
7 Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky (1988), Manufacturing Consent:
The Political Economy of the Mass Media, New York: Pantheon Books, 17.
8 Mark Crispin Miller (1988) Boxed In: The Culture of TV, Evanston IL,
Northwestern University Press, 24.
9 Erik Barnouw (2004) The Sponsor: Notes on a Modern Potentate, New
Brunswick, NJ, Transaction Publishers; Jennifer L. Pozner (2010), Reality
Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV. Berkeley CA: Seal
Press, 2010, 15.
10 Mark Crispin Miller (1990), ‘Hollywood: The Ad’, The Atlantic, April,
accessed 9 February 2017,
11 Pozner (2010), Reality Bites Back, 12.
12 Nicholas Garnham cited in Miller, Television Studies, 112.
13 Eric Schlosser (2012), Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American
Meal Boston MA, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 36.
14 Miller (2010), Television Studies, 66.
15 Noah Charney (2014), Cracking the Sitcom Code, The Atlantic, 28 December,
accessed 9 February 2017,
16 Tricia Jenkins (2013), The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film
and Television, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
17 Rick Lyman (2001), Hollywood Discusses Role in War Effort, New York
Times, 12 November, accessed 9 February 2017, http://www.nytimes.
18 Tom Secker (2015), Biggest Ever FOIA Release from Pentagon Entertainment
Liaison Offices, 12 July, accessed 9 February 2017, http://www.
19 Brooks Barnes (2010), TV Watchdog Group Is on the Defensive, New
York Times, 24 October accessed 9 February 2017, http://www.nytimes.
20 Cited in Barnes (2010), TV Watchdog Group.
21 Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent (1988), 29.
22 Ibid.
23 Janice Peck (2008) Age of Oprah: Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era, London,
24 Tasha Oren (2013), On the Line: Format, Cooking and Competition as Television
Values, Critical Studies in Television, Vol. 8, No. 2, 30.
25 Michele Byers (2010), ‘Neoliberal Dexter?’ in Investigating Cutting Edge Television,
ed. Douglas L. Howard, New York, I.B. Tauris, 144.
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172 The Propaganda Model Today
26 Tim Kasser (2002), The High Price of Materialism, Cambridge, Bradford
Book/MIT Press.
27 Cited in Randal Marlin (2013), Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion – Second
Edition (Peterborough: Broadview Press, Kindle edition, location 838.
28 Cited in Robert W. McChesney (2001), Global Media, Neoliberalism,
and Imperialism, Monthly Review 52(10), accessed 9 February 2017,
29 Sonia Livingstone (1996), ‘On the Continuing Problem of Media Effects
Research’, in Mass Media and Society, 2nd Edition, ed. James Curran and
Michael Gurevitch, London: Edward Arnold.
30 Ad Age, John Wanamaker, accessed November 3, 2016,
31 J. Michael Sproule (1994), Channels of Propaganda. Bloomington IN,
EDINFO Press and ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, 3. Accessed 3 November
32 David Carr (2014), Barely Keeping Up in TV’s New Golden Age, New
York Times, 9 March, accessed 9 February 2017, http://www.nytimes.
33 Nathan McAlone (2016), Services Like Netflix and Hulu Are Growing
Much Faster Than Cable, Business Insider, 11 April. Accessed 8 February
34 Dwayne Winseck (2011), The Political Economies of Media: The Transformation
of the Global Media Industries, p.34 in The Political Economies of
Media: The Transformation of the Global Media Industries ed. Dwyane Winseck
and Dal Yong Jin, London, Blomsbury.
35 Ibid; McAlone (2016), ‘Services like Netflix’; Sam Thielman, Netflix and Ill:
Is the Golden Age of TV Coming to an End?’ The Guardian, 16 October
2016 accessed 8 February 2017,
36 Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey Summary, 24 June
2016, accessed 9 February 2017,
37 Miller (2010), Television Studies, 15; also Winseck, The Political Economies
of Media, 35.
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