1st Edition

Constructing Hegemony The South African Commercial Media and the (Mis)Representation of Nationalisation

By Mandla J. Radebe Copyright 2024

    Post-apartheid South Africa continues to face challenges in its attempts at economic transformation from decades of apartheid and colonisation. This need for revolution has resulted in various policy initiatives, including the ongoing demands for the nationalisation of the economy. The commercial media has a central role in shaping policy debates. But this media is an ideological tool and an economic resource since it is owned and controlled by people with political and economic interests and, therefore, tends to support and promote their interests.


    This book provides a Marxist critique of the representation of the nationalisation of the mines debate by the South African commercial media. Radebe examines corporate control of the media to articulate the interrelations between the State, Capital and the Media and how commercial media represents, shapes and influences public policy. He concludes that beyond factors such as ownership, commercialisation and the influence of advertising on news content, the global capitalist hegemony has a more powerful effect on the commercial media in South Africa than previously thought.


    Print edition not for sale in Sub Saharan Africa.


    List of Figures and Tables

    List of Acronyms

    Introduction: Nationalisation Discourse in the South African Media

    1 The South African Media Landscape

    2 The Re-emergence of Nationalisation Post-apartheid: A Historical Background

    3 Setting a Neo-liberal Agenda: Nationalisation Discourse in the Commercial Media, 2008–18

    4 Framing Nationalisation from a Capitalist Perspective

    5 The Media, Capitalism and Ideological Discourse

    6 Media Commercialisation and Ideological Discourses

    7 Rethinking Media Transformation Post-apartheid

    Conclusion: Towards an Alternative Public Media


    Select Bibliography



    Mandla J. Radebe is Communications Practitioner, Senior Research Associate at the School of Communication, University of Johannesburg, and a Fellow of Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study.

    ‘This book is timely amid heightened debates about growing inequality in South Africa. It brings to the fore how commercially driven, for profit media privileges voices, discourses and perspectives on the social realities of the powerful, reinforcing their domination of society. Radebe advances the notion that critique of the commercial media is critique of power and the powerful.’

    — Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice Chancellor and Principal, University of Pretoria


    ‘Constructing Hegemony confronts the thorny and complex issue of the interrelations of the state, corporate interests and the media through the hotly contested issue of nationalisation. With empirically rich material, Radebe shows that commercial media is not simply “neutral” in its coverage of news, but plays a pivotal role together with the state and corporate interests in (re)producing capitalist hegemony in South African democracy. It is a timely book that deepens our understanding of the media’s role in shaping ideological debates that lie at the heart of capitalism’s survival.’

    Michelle Williams, Professor of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand


    ‘An exceptional book that reveals how media as a commercial industry necessarily constructs a version of South African reality that expresses and advances the interests of capitalism, building consent for a “common sense” that privatisation best serves public interests. Constructing Hegemony provides detailed examples that illustrate how media structures and their journalistic practices normalise neoliberal discourses and marginalise anti-capitalist democratic perspectives, including disparaging proposals for the nationalisation of industry for social and economic development. Radebe’s empirically based conclusion that the black working-class majority must have access to their own noncommercial media has global significance for media, democracy and humanity.’

    Lee Artz, Professor of Media Studies and Director of the Center for Global Studies, Purdue University Northwest