|External radio broadcasting: ideology and propaganda in the discourse|
|Written by Abeli Zahabu Kilonda|
External radio broadcasting: ideology and propaganda in the discourse: A Content Analysis of Radio RSA's News Reports October - November 1985.
By Abeli Zahabu Kilonda (2003)
Thesis Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement of the Degree of Master of Arts in Culture, Communication and Media Studies University of Natal, Durban
Propaganda, ideology, and news reports: three concepts which will constitute the pivot of the present study. These concepts at a first sight seem to belong to different worlds, but reveal unsuspected and deep links between them. An in-depth study will reveal that these links can be so deep that the three concepts turn out to be essential and necessary for the understanding of one another. In this way, the concept of Propaganda cannot be thought out of a particular ideological context or an ideology which drives it. As suggested in different studies the concept propaganda cannot be treated separately from the issue of ideology (Selucky, 1982; Teer-Tomaselli, 1992; Sproule, 1994; Jowett & O'Domel, 1999 among many others). In the same way, propaganda and ideology cannot be conceived of out of a motivated and oriented system of communication which vehicle them: media organisations. The main task of this study on ideology andpropaganda in news reports is to disclose these intricacies by showing how they relate to and influence each other.
However, the study of the triad ideology-propaganda-news and the nature of their relationships cannot pass under silence a related issue that they raise necessarily, namely the issue of objectivity and neutrality in the news report as it appears in the market theory of news. Is the claim of objectivity and neutrality in the news a legitimate one? Considering that the news is charged with the basic objective of informing, educating and entertaining on one hand and taking the media and the news as carriers of a certain ideology (Selucky, 1982) on the other hand, is it possible to talk about objectivity and neutrality in the news reports? It seems that broadcasters and those working in the media industry do not report on facts 'out there' and 'naked' reality. News reports are already (and always) constructed in a certain way, according to a particular context or in line with the views of those in position of power (political, economic or moral) who appear to shape what the mass believe in.
This argument contradicts the optimism demonstrated by McQuail (2000: 172) who points out that the process of observing and reporting should, thus, not be contaminated by subjectivity, nor should it interfere with the reality being reported on. McQuail seems to assume that an individual reporter can get out of hislher subjectivity (which is quite difficult to imagine given the fact that one can only thinks and reports as an already-situatedindividual) and report on an 'uncoloured' and 'decontextualised' reality -which is equally hard to figure out. "The media", argues Brian McNair (1999: 12) "do not simply report, in a neutral and impartial way, what is going on in the political arena around them". He goes on to suggest that media reports "are laden with value judgements, subjectivities and biases".
This last argument suggests therefore that news reports must be seen in line with power, ideology and hegemony instead of being looked at solely in terms neutrality and objectivity - which are difficult to assert totally.
It is only when news reports are seen in relation with ideology, power and hegemony that it becomes possible to understand how they can be used (or misused) and utilised (by those who own and control the media) to convey 'official' ideas, to persuade in an attempt to shape public opinion and change the perception of the audience. Seen in relation to power, ideology and hegemony, news reports and mass media easily can be linked to the concept of propaganda in the sense that the use of particular media and the selection (or omission) of particular news as well as the massive orchestration of those news can turn an assertion into a self-perpetuating and obvious truth, which is exactly what propaganda tends to achieve in order to secure a given hegemony.
The present study is a 'close-up' on the content of the former SABC's external service, Radio RSA's news reports during October-November 1985. As an external broadcaster during a time when South Africa was facing international isolation, political boycott, economic sanctions as well as increasing internal uprising, more specifically during the mid-1980s insurgencies, Radio RSA was assigned a particular mission with regard to the external audience: to correct misconceptions, lies and distortions of which South Africa was an innocent victim and to present the South African version of reality.
The study will be deployed in six chapters. It will start in its first chapter as a discussion of different theories of news -as developed in Teer-Tomaselli's research (1992)- in order to find out which one supports better the argument that sees ideology as a 'mental framework' informing the construction of news reports. The chapter will carry on discussing the concept of ideology (Althuser, 1969; Hall, 1977; 1996; Tomaselli & Tomaselli, 1986) and the way it operates 'smoothly' and unconsciously. This will help to view propaganda in connection to the work of ideologisation of which it is a continuation. As a form of communication, propaganda will be seen both as a pro-active (offensive) and retro-active (defensive) attempt aimed at shaping the mind and winning the hearts of audiences where the 'smooth' work of ideologisation has failed. The second chapter will discuss the context that contributed to the creation of Radio RSA and in which it had to operate. Understanding the context in which a message is broadcast enables to make sense of that message. In the context of crisis Radio RSA could be seen as a propaganda arm of the National Party government more than it was the voice of South Africa, meaning the voice of all South Africans. In the third chapter I present and discuss the methodology I used in this research. My objective was to identify the main characteristics of Radio RSA's news reports during the crisis period of the mid-1980s.
In this kind of research which deals with human motives, I favoured a qualitative inquiry and, therefore, used a content analysis in a descriptive manner in order "to identify what exists" (Wimmer & Dominick, 1983:140) and reveal the story behind those reports. The three last chapters deal with international as well as internal events that the South African government grabbed as dreamed opportunities to state its case in public. The selection of these events and the angle of report reveal a self-oriented motives.