Ideology – perspectives

Ideology refers to a set of ideas, values and beliefs that represent the outlook, and justifies the interests, of a social group (Browne 2016). In education in Year 1 we looked at the extent to which education was concerned with socialising children into particular roles within society and how it was used as a tool for consensus within societies. This is also true for our topic on the media, we will look to what extent the media is socialising audiences into particular viewpoints and who harbours the control of media content.

Morley (1980) identified that the media was motivated to manipulate messages for their audiences in order to gain the desired response, such as conformity. Morley called this the preferred (or dominant) reading.

Marxist see the media as another avenue for the dominant ideology (the ruling class) to control and protect their own interests by feeding through the media an ideology which protects their way of thinking and justifies the class system. Althusser thought of the media as a piece of ideological state apparatus which seek to induce in the mass of people a false consciousness of their exploitation and their real interests. Marxists such as Miliband(1973) and the Glasgow Media Group (GMG) also agree with this view that the media plays a role in spreading the dominant class ideology. The media promotes ways of thinking and these reasons suite the dominant class ideology and support the capitalist ideal.

There are three main approaches to the issues of ownership and control of the media and how this affects the content of the media these are –

1. The manipulative/instrumentalists approach (Marxism)

2. The dominant ideology or hegemonic approach (neo Marxism)

3. The pluralist approach (social action – holistic approach)

Manipulative/instrumentalist approach 

This traditional view of the media suggests that the media moguls directly control media content with the aim of protecting their own interests and spread their ideology. Curran and Seaton (2010) found evidence that this was still very much the case today. Rupert Murdoch, owner of the News corporation group supported strongly the conservative view towards the war in Iraq it is by no coincidence therefore that evidence can be found across all his media outlets messages supporting his ideal. Harold Evans (2011) suggested that indeed Murdoch still controls the editorial and undermined the editors and journalist in order to promote his preferred message. The Leveson inquiry in 2012 highlighted many of the ethical and moral breaches of the media and government working together to protect their own interests.

The manipulative/instrumental approach assumes the audience is passive, easily manipulated and unquestioning of the media message this is rather dated view and may only really apply in the old forms of media and not a view that can be made about audiences in the New media era. Audiences can be more selective now and view differing opinions from many sources before drawing conclusions and opinions. Even more fascinating is the rise in citizen journalism which sees the audiences reporting the news. The manipulative/instrumental view also sees the motivation of the media as spreading dominant ideals from the top however given the vast amount of choice within the free media now it is very much that the owners need to appeal to what the audiences want in order to attract profit and survive in the media world.

This view further ignores the controls that are now  in place by law and authortive bodies to stop and prevent news being one-sided and biased.

Before we go into approach number two let’s just have a recap of the philosophy of hegemony.

The second approach is similar to the manipulative approach in its supporting of a capitalist society and power control but it sees the media as not controlled by the owners but more that the owners ideology is believed deeply and spread by the middle class editors and journalist of the media in order to protect their own interests of employment. This is supported by the Glasgow Media Group ( a research organisation looking into media effects. It recognised that sometimes the editors and journalists produce stories that go against the dominant ideology but this is motivated only with attracting viewers and ultimately protects their own interests. This explains how there is a range of media stories. Therefore the hegemonic approach sees the media as gatekeeping or agenda setting based on dominant ideologies but controlled not by the owners but by the middle managers who are already invested in the dominant ideology. Owen Jones a Guardian journalist published the statistics of who and what made up the media, he found that 51% of top journalist were private school educated compared with 7% of the population. 94% are white, 55% are men and only 19% of top journalist went to comprehensive school compared with 90% of their readers. Jones described the media as a privileged ‘closed shop’.

This view underestimates the the power and influence of owners such as Rupert Murdoch who have been known to sack managers and editors who oversee the line. The approach still views audiences as passive and manipulated again this approach is therefore dated when we consider the interactivity of the new media.


Pluraislit see power in the media as divided not concentrated in one area. They don’t see that the media moguls control the content and they equally don’t see journalists and editors as puppets of the dominant ideology. They view journalist and editors in the media as professional with integrity who would not allow themselves to be manipulated.

The conflict in pluralism comes in competition, that is the media is driven by profits through high circulation and audience figures. Pluralist point out the amount of choice the consumer has therefore providing what the audience wants is the thing that controls the media content. The pluralist view therefore sees the audience as active in media consumption and not the passive media gobblers that Marxist ideology assume. This approach in understanding the media and audiences seems far more appropriate in the new media age as it considers many aspects and choice which is what dominants the media.

One criticism of the pluralist approach is that it assumes all groups in society have equal access, influence and power but this is not true. Influence still comes from those who own the evidence or who are more desirable and digestible to mass audiences. This means the message in the media still comes from a select few.

In the race for greater viewing figures many argue that the media and news is being dumbed down to tabloid level news in order to increase appeal. ‘Infotainment’ refers to information wrapped up in entertainment. Peo0le are making choices based on brands and style rather than quality.

Postmodern views on the ownership and control of the media

Postmodernist hold a similar view to that of pluralist. They see that as society has changed from modernity to postmodernity this has changed the nature of ownership and control and it is now impossible to ascertain who true,y controls the media.

Postmodernist use the term media saturation to help understand the mass choice and availability of media now available to audiences. They believe the audience is so saturated with media they no longer can distinguish the difference between real life and a media version of real life (hyperreality).

Ownership is fluid, narratives vary from citizen journalism, to blog, twitter and Facebook exposing views and opinions on things such as politics. Facebook was sited as one of the main ways young people understood politics in the last general election and they not only valued the news feed but the feedback to that news feed from their friends and the wider population. Postmodernist see the audience as having a big influence on the news, especially when we see the news quote from platforms such as Twitter.

Some argue however that this view of the audiences significance is too optimistic. Ultimately the corporations still determine what reaches the masses and what stays in the social media bubble.

Key words

Ideology,   Dominant ideology,    Ideological State Apparatus,   False consciousness,    Citizen journalism,    Marxism,   Grassci,    Hegemony,    News values,   Agenda setting,   Gatekeeping.   Pluralist,   Tabloidisation,