Political Economy of the media is a theory greatly used in Media and Communication studies. According to this theory, in order to understand society in terms of how it communicates, what it communicates, why it communicates and how it shapes reality, it is important to look at the structures of the ownership of the means of production of communication in the society. The Political Economy theory addresses issues of the framing of information, its presentation and other aspects which ultimately result in propaganda endeavors.
On Monday morning news emerged that Mzwanele Manyi’s Lodidox bought the Gupta-owned ANN7 (African News Network) and The New Age for R450 million through a vendor financing agreement. These media outlets were apparently sold in order to preserve over 7 200 jobs. “We are delighted to have reached an agreement with Lodidox and the management team; the sale of our shareholdings will preserve the jobs of their employees,” said Oakbay Investments acting CEO Ronica Ragavan. Infinity Media, which houses ANN7 cost R300 million and TNA Media which houses The New Age cost R150 million. Oakbay Investments made the announcement and stated that this move will allow the shareholders to challenge the unfounded allegations leveled against the company and the Gupta family.
The argument here is that of a possible propaganda activity. Given the reputation of the family in this country one is tempted to ask in-depth questions about the proximity and the influence of the family over the news platforms even after they have been sold. Was this an activity of ensuring that perceptions are changed about The New Age and ANN7 in order to continue or intensify propaganda through these platforms? The political economy of the media helps us understand that only the views of the economic and political elites dominate reality in any society. Is this the plan here, to rebrand the machinery which will make this possible?
Mzwanele Manyi emphasized that from now on the news platforms will be reporting without fear or favour even when it comes to the Gupta family, evidently suggesting that the news channels have been doing the opposite. ANN7 has been known to be pro the ruling party and anti-anyone that is against the ruling party particularly president Zuma. The station has been accused of having very biased political analysts and putting forward a pro Zuma agenda at all times. The station has defended itself by arguing that it exists to report from an unpopular perspective, to give South Africans a broader outlook on issues and that it has a duty to present pertinent issues to South African viewers.
The political economy of the media helps us understand the influence of the ruling elites and the power they have on the minds of ordinary members of the public. Noam Chomsky in his writings emphasises that it is important to realise and question what is behind the story and that not being able to do so, undermines the creation of an honest reality of society.