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This lesson will explore the differences between private and state-controlled media. In doing so it will highlight the 1st Amendment as well as the concept of propaganda.


There’s a very famous radio personality that I just can’t stand.

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I find him to be vulgar, crass, and downright rude. Every time I hear his voice on the radio, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard or rubbing Styrofoam together.Of course when I hear him, I usually go into a mini-sermon on the decaying of American culture. A minute or two into my rant, my husband, whose cool head often drives me crazy, will step in and say something like, ‘How about we just try to be thankful we live in a country where people are still allowed to broadcast what they want to?’ Although he’s right and his statement is a great example of today’s topic–private vs.

state-controlled media–I still usually give him a sour look as I quite exasperatedly flip the station.Before we get to private vs. state-controlled media, we should probably take a moment to define ‘media.

Media is usually defined as the means of mass communication (especially television, radio, newspaper, and the Internet). With this in mind, let’s get started with private media.

Private Media

Keeping our opening story in mind, my husband’s wisdom concerning the freedom to broadcast is a great lead-in to the concept of private media. Stated really simply, private media is any media outlet whose financing is provided by individuals or private groups.

It is not owned by a government or a state-sponsored entity. Due to this private ownership, the financiers of private media have the right to dictate and choose what is broadcast through it.Very familiar to most of us who live under the blanket of the First Amendment, which affords freedom of speech, American airwaves and TV channels are full of privately-owned media. For instance, I live in a very small town within a very small county.

Due to our small size, our area has only one radio station that broadcasts directly from the area.Going along with the small town theme, this radio station has been owned by the same family since its inception. Further going along with the small town concept, the family that owns the station also happens to be every Sunday morning church-goers. Due to this, they broadcast their church’s service over the radio each Sunday morning. After all, they own it; it’s private media, they can do what they want within reason and the law. Those who don’t like it can simply flip the station.With this idea of flipping the station in mind, we should probably mention that private media is usually motivated by profit.

Yes, it’s sometimes concerned with making points and stances known, but when push comes to shove, the money often outweighs the importance of the message.This is often seen as private media moguls may back two media venues with diametrically opposing views. For instance, they may fund one station who touts very conservative political views while also funding a more liberal one. To them, the information their media is peddling is sometimes just a product used to help ratings and thus profits.

State-Controlled Media

Very opposite from private media is state-controlled media. Flying directly in the face of the First Amendment, state-controlled media is media which is owned, dictated, and managed by the government. Probably one of the best examples of state-controlled media is China’s Communist Party state newspaper known in English as the People’s Daily.

Unlike the privately-funded pages of the New York Times or the Philadelphia Inquirer, the People’s Daily is owned by the Communist Party and therefore exists to spread the message of the Communist Party. Rest assured, you won’t find any editorials slamming the government in its pages.


Throughout history, it has been argued that state-controlled media has been used to spread propaganda to the people. Again familiar to most of us, propaganda is information, which is usually misleading, used to promote a political cause or point of view.

A tragic example of state-controlled media being used to devastate others occurred as Nazi Germany flooded its papers and airwaves with degrading information concerning the Jewish people. As Hitler himself said, All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. In other words, keep the message simple and interesting.Keeping this horrific example in mind, it should be mentioned that private media is not innocent when it comes to propaganda. Without a doubt, most media outlets are working to make their products and their points of view heard and accepted. However, when it occurs in private media, it is by choice.

It is not a formalized extension of a government that holds ultimate power.

Lesson Summary

Media is defined as a means of mass communication (especially television, radio, newspaper, and the Internet). Media can be private. It can also be state-controlled. Private media is any media outlet whose financing is provided by individuals or private groups.

Private media is usually very motivated by profit. Due to the First Amendment, along with other rights, American media enjoys the freedom of speech. State-controlled media is media which is owned, dictated, and managed by a government.

State-controlled media usually employs propaganda as a means to control its people. Propaganda is information, which is usually biased or misleading, used to promote a political cause or point of view.

Learning Outcomes

Your goal, at the end of the video, should be to:

  • Describe what private media is and how it’s protected in the United States
  • Discuss state-controlled media and what type of content it produces
  • Consider propaganda and how it can be used by state-controlled media and private media

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I'm Eric!

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