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ICA Conference May 22-26, 2008 Montreal

Communicating for Social Impact

Gabriël J. Botma
Honing the tools of journalism research: Herman and
Chomsky versus Bourdieu at Naspers

Different approaches to journalism research can often lead to diverging and even conflicting results. In
this paper, which enters the debate between critical political economy and cultural studies, findings
from an analysis using elements from both theoretical approaches are compared in order to shed light
on a current South African journalism research problem: the positioning of Afrikaans arts and culture
journalism at the international media conglomerate Naspers more than a decade after the end of
As a pilot research project this paper analyses Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at two of
Naspers’s oldest and most prominent Afrikaans print publications, Die Burger and Huisgenoot, by
using Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model (from critical political economy) in
conjunction and comparison with concepts from Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory (from cultural studies)
as theoretical framework. Research methods include a qualitative content analysis of the above-
mentioned publications (2004–2005) and corporate publications and literature, as well as unstructured
in-depth interviews with managers, editors and journalists.
In the first part of the paper, the propaganda model is adapted and applied to the current South
African environment. This includes a reworking of the dated fifth filter – anti-communism – to
describe the positioning of the Afrikaner-dominated Naspers vis-à-vis the ANC-led South African
government and its “nation-building” policies. Bourdieu’s field theory is then introduced and
discussed in terms of concepts such as (mutually transferable) cultural and symbolic capital, as well as
habitus, which is adapted here to describe the historic content, role and function of Afrikaans in the
development of Naspers.
In conclusion, where findings from both approaches are compared, this paper argues that what
looks like true journalistic independence for arts journalists at Naspers might in fact be a rather
powerless structural vacuum, devoid of support from both their owners/managers and readers because
of the radical shift in the political economic context of the South African media since 1994.

Keywords: Afrikaans, arts journalism, critical political economy, cultural studies, Die Burger, field
theory, Huisgenoot, journalism research, Naspers, propaganda model

Mr Gabriël J. Botma (gbotma@sun.ac.za) is a lecturer at the Journalism Department of Stellenbosch

University, South Africa. This paper is based in part on Manufacturing cultural capital: The political
economy of arts journalism at Die Burger (2004-2005), delivered at the conference 20 Years of
Propaganda?, University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, 17 May 2007, and Paying the field: The
cultural economy of Afrikaans at Naspers, delivered at CRESC Annual Conference, 5 September
2007, University of Manchester, England.

1. Introduction
Africa’s and South Africa’s biggest commercial media company, Naspers, started out in 1915 (as
Nasionale Pers) with a single newspaper (Die Burger) in support of Afrikaner nationalism and its
ethnic mobilization policies which was institutionalized as apartheid in 1948. Although Naspers
steadily expanded under apartheid, its growth has been phenomenal since non-racial, inclusive
democratization in 1994, which enabled the company to turn culture into international corporate
business. While the company on the one hand still supports a number of very lucrative publications
and projects aimed specifically at Afrikaans audiences, it now displays and professes an international,
multilingual and multicultural approach.
From the start of Naspers in the early twentieth century, Afrikaans arts and culture journalism
played an important role in the development of both the commercial and political interests of the
media company. For example, in 1916 the general-interest cultural magazine Huisgenoot was started
to support Die Burger financially and to promote Afrikaner nationalism through the coverage of an
idealistic Afrikaans/Afrikaner cultural life, including literature, music, theatre, fine arts and history
(Muller, 1990).
Afrikaans became an official language (besides English) in the 1920s, in part because of the
efforts of Die Burger, Huisgenoot and other Naspers concerns, such as its growing book publishing
business (Beukes, 1992). In the same vein Naspers publications supported Afrikaner cultural
hegemony and arguably helped the National Party (NP) to take office in 1948 and to establish a
republic, independent from the British Commonwealth, in 1961 (O’ Meara, 1983).
According to Froneman (2004) Afrikaner nationalism lost momentum after the ultimate goal
of an Afrikaner-dominated republic was reached in 1961. The trend was visible in Huisgenoot in the
form of a gradual shift to include more “light” entertainment and sports, and also Anglo-American pop
culture, instead of the previously predominant focus on “serious” Afrikaner/Afrikaans arts and culture.
Faltering circulation figures and the introduction of television in South Africa in the 1970s finally
motivated Huisgenoot to embrace international pop culture and to present a mixture of sensational
celebrity news content and light entertainment to its readers. Subsequently, its circulation grew to
unparalleled heights in the South African market. Huisgenoot retained this successful formula up to
and after democratization in 1994 (although it then quickly shifted its brand of popular patriotism to
the leaders, celebrities and symbols of the inclusive “new” South Africa) and also its leadership
position in terms of market share. The magazine now also publishes an English edition.
The domacratization of South African society in the 1990s introduced radical changes to the
positioning of arts and culture journalism at Die Burger. Following the lead of its holding company,
Naspers, Die Burger also embraced the new democracy and tried to distance itself from its apartheid
past. In term of arts and cultural journalism this meant, amongst others, more attention to indigenous
African arts and culture, although some arts journalists were also critical of the new official political

and cultural hegemony which has replaced apartheid and which seems to marginalize and/or exclude
Afrikaans to an extent (Botma, 2006).
The question thus arises: What is the current positioning of Afrikaans arts and culture
journalism at Naspers?
This paper aims to describe the current political, cultural and economic positioning of
Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at Naspers in the context of its transformation from apartheid to
democracy from the perspectives of critical political economy and cultural studies. In the first instance
the propaganda model of Herman and Chomsky (1988) will be utilized, and for the second perspective
this paper will turn to the field theory of Bourdieu (1984; 1989).
Because Naspers is a huge media conglomerate with a long and complex history, this paper
will as a pilot study often focus on a limited (but still challenging) overview of the transformation and
role of Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at Die Burger and Huisgenoot. As a general starting
point, this paper proposes that the qualitative description of the transformation and current positioning
of Afrikaans and arts and culture journalism at these core publications will be indicative of the
company’s current positioning in relation to Afrikaans arts and culture journalism in general.

3. Theoretical approach: Two models

3.1 The propaganda model
This paper firstly employs the Herman and Chomsky (1988) propaganda model as basic theoretical
framework in its analysis of Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at Naspers.
There are sufficient similarities between the context of the model’s design 20 years ago in
America and the current neo-liberal capitalist South African commercial landscape to warrant
application, but also significant enough differences between the two to make it difficult to predict
research results. While similarities centre on influences of globalization, including corporatization and
commercialization, differences include a fragmented, deeply divided and unequal multicultural and
multilingual South African context, in contrast to the comparatively far more homogeneous American
More problematic is the question of how to include agency when one tries to apply the model
on the meso and micro level of analysis, such as Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at two specific
Naspers publications. Although the model tends to favor the description of processes on a macro level,
Boyd-Barrett (2004) showed that it could be adapted to focus on a particular publication and the
agency of individual journalists.
In this paper the model’s capacity for agency is extended further with the introduction of
Mosco’s (1996) concept of structuration. According to Mosco (1996:212) structuration refers to the
process whereby structures are formed through human agency, while at the same time becoming the
medium of that process. Social life is mutually constituted by agency and structures, according to
Mosco (1996). This inclusive approach, which links political economy and media sociology, also finds
reference in the work of Benson & Neveu (2005) and Croteau & Hoynes (2002, 2001). If it is accepted

that structure and agency are interlocked, a more flexible approach to seemingly structurally
determined models, like the propaganda model, becomes possible. The discussion of structuration at
Naspers looks at the way in which human agency creates, forms, changes and influences structures,
while at the same time being changed by these structures. This includes the creation of fields of
support and resistance, and the role played by hegemony – in the specific sense that consensus is
created to the extent that opposition is marginalized (Mosco, 1996:216).
Partially accepting Boyd-Barrett’s (2004:436) reworking of the fifth filter (the outdated
category of “anti-communism”), namely that “the media share the same broad ideological outlook as
their government” (more about this later), the discussion will now focus on key concepts from field

3.2 Field theory

Key concepts from the field theory of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1984; 1989) form the
theoretical point of departure of the second part of this paper. In an effort to further support the
introduction of agency into a structural analysis as discussed above, Bourdieu’s central concept of
habitus will be employed.
According to Thompson (1991:12) the habitus is a “set of dispositions which incline agents to
act and react in certain ways”:

The dispositions generate practices, perceptions and attitudes which are ‘regular’
without being consciously co-ordinated or governed by any ‘rule’.

But when individuals act, they always do so in specific social contexts or settings, according
to Thompson (1991). Bourdieu uses the term “field” to refer to these social contexts. According to
Thompson (1991:14):

A field … may be seen as a structured space of positions in which the positions and
their interrelations are determined by the distribution of different kinds of resources or
‘capital’… there are different forms of capital: not only ‘economic capital’… but also
‘cultural capital’ (i.e. knowledge, skills and other cultural acquisitions, as exemplified
by educational or technical qualifications), ‘symbolic capital’ (i.e. accumulated
prestige or honor), and so on. One of the most important properties of fields is the way
in which they allow one form of capital to be converted into another – in the way, for
example, that certain educational qualifications can be cashed in for lucrative jobs.

In Bourdieu’s theory the activities and practices of the news media fall into the general field of
cultural production (Bourdieu & Nice, 1980). According to Benson & Neveu (2005:4) organizations

or individuals who dominate a field are generally those who successfully convert one form of capital
into another, and in so doing, besides economic and cultural capital, “amass both ‘social capital’ of
friendship and colleague networks, and ‘symbolic’ capital through which their dominance is
Hesmondhalgh (2006: 215) argues that fields of cultural production (such as journalism) are
also structured by sets of possible positions within them. He states that struggles over these positions
often take the form of a “battle between established producers, institutions and styles, and heretical
newcomers” (pp. 215-216).
From this perspective, Bourdieu’s theory makes it possible to describe the possible influence
of individual agents (such as arts and culture journalists) struggling for various forms of capital, on the
structures in which they work (fields), and which also influence their disposition (habitus) in turn.
The current positioning of Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at two prominent Naspers
publications is at issue. In conjunction with habitus, the concepts of field and capital enable one to
describe the historic transition and structural transformation of the two particular publications from the
apartheid era to the current democratic dispensation, as well as their current positioning (through
media products, projects and discourses) as important players in the field of cultural production.
This paper suggests that field theory provides a strong tool for journalism research on different
levels of analysis. At the same time field theory seems to be compatible to the adapted propaganda
model from the critical political economy approach.
However, a strong counterargument must be recognized in future research involving
Bourdieu’s field theory in relation to journalism and cultural studies. Although field theory, which was
developed in sociology, has gained popularity in cultural studies and is progressively influencing this
approach, one could argue that Bourdieu’s theory is not really “representative” of cultural studies. The
same argument will concede that field theory is arguably “closer” to critical political economy to start
off with, and probably rather “belongs” more to media sociology.
But others, such as Benson & Neveu (2005:12), argue that field theory positions itself
“precisely” between political economy and cultural approaches and calls for “the simultaneous
analysis of social structures and cultural forms, as well as the complex interplay between the two”.
Even if one concedes that a lot more work probably needs to be done to reconcile critical
political economy and cultural studies, this paper still aims to illustrate that an eclectic approach using
a combination and adaptation of different theories and models may only strengthen the tools of
journalism research.

4. Research question and methodology

Flowing from the discussion above, the main research question of this paper is: What is the current
positioning of Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at Naspers?
In order to answer the main research question a qualitative content analysis of literature
sources, including corporate documents, financial statements and websites, as well as media content

from Naspers publications, will be done by using Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model and
Bourdieu’s field theory. The findings will then be compared and discussed. By applying these
different theoretical concepts, the researcher will be able to describe the current positioning of
Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at especially Die Burger and Huisgenoot in the context of their
historic development.
The content analysis will include a review of transcribed notes from recordings of
unstructured in-depth interviews with managers, editors and journalists of Naspers, conducted in 2005,
about the economic, political and cultural positioning of the company before and after 1994.
A preliminary database search on the internet, including the NRF-Nexus, Google and Google
Scholar search engines, as well as the catalogue of the J.S. Gericke library of Stellenbosch University,
indicated that findings for Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model and Pierre Bourdieu’s field
theory have not been compared in an analysis of Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at Die Burger
and Huisgenoot before.
For practical reasons already stated, the qualitative analysis of research material from both the
literary and field sources, including corporate material and publication content, will be limited mainly
to Die Burger and Huisgenoot. Although a host of Naspers publications (still) appear in Afrikaans, this
paper argues that the transformation and current positioning of Die Burger and Huisgenoot can serve
as an important indication of the positioning of Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at Naspers. This
pilot study will therefore yield reliable results relating to trends in the cultural economy of Naspers,
which may be included in a future project with greater depth and scope.

5. Application and discussion

5.1 The propaganda model and Naspers
The discussion will start with the broader political economic context of Die Burger and Huisgenoot,
with special reference to its holding company Naspers – even if that means moving away for a
moment from the more narrowly defined research focus on arts journalism. However, at publications
like Die Burger and Huisgenoot the production of arts and culture (and entertainment) journalism is in
many respects linked so closely to (and also sometimes directly dictated by) Naspers that the holding
company should at least be considered in brief in relation to the model as a whole.
Naspers provides a textbook example of a diversified, horizontally and vertically concentrated
and integrated media conglomerate with national and international interests and is therefore easily
placeable within the parameters of the five filters of the Herman and Chomsky model. Naspers’s main
activities are concentrated in pay television and internet platforms, print media, book publishing, and
technology markets (Naspers website, 2007). Its primary listing is on the JSE securities exchange in
South Africa. The company’s ADB programme, through which it had a secondary listing on Nasdaq in
New York, was suspended in 2007 and transferred to a listing on the securities exchange in London.
Although Naspers has significant operations located elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa,
Greece, Cyprus, the Netherlands, the United States, Thailand and China, its most significant

operations are located in South Africa, where it generates approximately 72.7% of its revenues.
Therefore, the company’s relationship with the South African and regulating authorities are important,
by its own admission – the company for example declares government affirmative action policies like
Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) as a “risk factor” in a statement to American investors
(Naspers yearbook, 2005) and undertakes to establish and maintain a close relationship with the
The company seemingly also retained some alliances with traditional powerful Afrikaner
interests. The company’s history until close to the 1990s (when the company was listed for the first
time) is so closely knit with Afrikaner nationalism (through its partnership with the National Party)
and capitalism (through its connection with the insurance giant Sanlam) that it is unrealistic to think
that some of this history will not be reflected somewhere in especially the ownership and control
structure of the company. Bekker (2005) possibly understates this aspect, but confirms in any case that
the share structure before listing “was roughly” continued thereafter.
An unsuccessful effort by the financial services group PSG to acquire a significant amount of
the unlisted Class A controlling shares of Naspers between the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006
(Crotty, 2006) has put the company’s complex and controversial control structure somewhat in the
media spotlight. PSG’s bid was defeated when Sanlam Investment Managers sold a number of its
Class A controlling shares to Koos Bekker, chief executive officer of Naspers, and Cobus Stofberg,
chief director of its affiliate MIH, in their personal capacities. Bekker, Stofberg and Sanlam now
together holds 13% of the voting rights of Naspers through a new company, Wheatfields 221, which
forms part of the control structure of Naspers (Crotty, 2006).
Bekker, who has became a rich and powerful media baron through his connection to the
company, is personally one of the driving forces behind the strategy to create the perception that
Naspers has been thoroughly repositioned as an innovative commercial international media company,
altogether away from its ethnic origins and the partisan goals of the past. As indicated above, the
company has been working hard to distance itself from its apartheid history to ensure economic
survival and progress.
Through his so-called synergy forum at Naspers, Bekker, for example, directed different
affiliates in the production and promotion of an ambitious project, “So where do we come from?”, in
2004 (Booyens, 2005). This synergy project entailed the publication of a book (Out of Africa’s Eden)
by one of Naspers’ publishers, Jonathan Ball, a documentary on its pay TV channel M-Net, a
genealogy website hosted by the internet service provider M-Web, and orchestrated promotion on the
company’s digital TV channels and programmes, as well as in its magazines such as Huisgenoot and
newspapers, including Die Burger.
The background to this project shows the importance of ideological projects in the
repositioning of Naspers and its affiliates. In short: The project centered on the scientific view that
Africa is the birthplace of humankind. The book and documentary accordingly both emphasized the
point of view that racism does not make scientific sense, but added an important element in the context

of the new South Africa: If everbody is an African, then everybody can take equal part in the
Africanization of the new South Africa (through the African renaissance). To popularize this political
point, the (traceable ancient) genetic origins of a number of South African celebrities from diverse
backgrounds were “established” as part of the project. The results – some black (or so-called coloured)
people “came” from the East or Europa, while some whites “came” from Africa – fitted the
ideological slant of the project. (Popular former president Nelson Mandela’s genes were –
conveniently? – traced back to an African Khoisan ancestry – the “oldest” people on earth.)
From Bekker’s and Naspers’ point of view this meant that whites (and also Afrikaners) too
could claim an “ancient birthright” on the continent and that they had “evidence” with which they
could try and counter any threat of exclusion that a narrow definition of “African” in the concept of
the African renaissance – to the detriment of political stability, and ultimately economic progress –
would entail in the long run. In addition the project had the potential to make a quick profit in the short
Naspers also tries to cultivate good relations with the ANC-led government on national and
provincial levels. ANC ministers are regularly entertained at Naspers affiliates and at the company
headquarters in Cape Town, also with the directors present, while the Western Cape goverment were
in the past closely involved in co-sponsorship deals with Naspers of Afrikaans cultural festivals. On
behalf of Naspers, Die Burger and Huisgenoot are promiment sponsors and promotors of the biggest
of these festivals.

5.1.2 The propaganda model and Die Burger and Huisgenoot

Similar to what Huisgenoot experienced in the late 1970s with the introduction of television to South
Africa, arts journalism at Die Burger after 1994 was transformed due to declining circulation that
posed a threat to advertising rates and income – the bottom line. Just as the “visionary” editor Niel
Hamman (Beukes, 1992) commercialized and popularized Huisgenoot decades ago, aggressive steps
were taken by Die Burger under the editorship of Arrie Rossouw (2000-2006) to increase circulation.
These included special projects to attract readers through the commodification of both journalism and
At times members of the arts and culture desk at Die Burger came under pressure to legitimize
and promote these sponsored events through editorial coverage, although these strategies were
challenged by them (Botma, 2006). However, as Botma (2006) indicates after a comparison of
newspaper content from a database search, even a low-key Afrikaans cultural festival that was started
by Naspers MD Koos Bekker for strategic reasons, the Naspers-sponsored Suidooster Festival,
received more editorial coverage in Die Burger in 2004–2005 than the biggest arts festival in South
Africa, the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, during the same period.
Huisgenoot had long ago rid itself of any “elitist” pretence and content and only nostalgic
members of the older generation would nowadays refer to the magazine’s “serious” contribution to
Afrikaans literature and the “upliftment” of Afrikaners (see Aucamp, 2008).

While it could be argued that the shift from an “upmarket” approach, which could also be
called elitist, to a more populist focus at Die Burger and Huisgenoot placed arts and cultural
journalists in a better position to broaden the scope of Afrikaans cultural expression to inlcude
previously excluded (“non-white”) Afrikaans cultural groups, some countertrends emerge at the same
Through Naspers-sponsored projects Die Burger and Huisgenoot sold their brands – and,
could be argued, their credibility – to the highest bidder. In both publications the divide between
advertising/promotions staff on the one hand and editorial staff on the other clearly came under serious
threat, and was bridged and broken down in some instances. For arts journalists this meant that they
were less protected by senior editors and thus more exposed to direct pressure from both the
advertising and promotional departments of the publications and their clients. It was not uncommon
for a client to be escorted into the editorial section with demands for editorial coverage in addition to
and in return for ad-spend or as part of a special partnership of sponsorship deal with management
(Schneider, 2005). Although some members of the arts and entertainment staff at Die Burger offered
resistance (Pople, 2005), the growing power of advertisers, supported by management, forced arts and
culture journalists to compromise some of their traditional values and practices of independence and
fairness. Limited success was noted: in one case a books editor’s suggestion to launch a book club for
Die Burger on less promotional grounds was accepted (Brand, 2005).
The more common response from management, however, was to sideline arts and culture
journalists by assigning the editorial coverage of important sponsored events to the publication’s
promotional and marketing department. In this way promotional copy, the unfiltered voice of powerful
official sources, found their way into the editorial columns of Die Burger, while the editor could still,
with some justification, proclaim that arts and culture journalists (but not journalism!) were not
compromised by the paper’s close relationship with official sources (Rossouw, 2005).
In general reduced resources as a result of restructuring due to political and economic factors
are increasingly forcing arts journalists to stay in the office and rely on official sources to feed them by
telephone and the internet. Because the welfare gap in South Africa overlaps to a large degree with the
“information gap” (due to the corresponding levels of connectivity and access to media), these
practices of exclusion ensure that arts and culture projects originating from groups with money will be
favoured in Die Burger and Huisgenoot.
Especially at Die Burger, this trend of commodification was not in the main supported by arts
journalists, whose criticism of these sponsored events seem to focus on the lack of substance
(intellectually, politically and artistically) of these popular offerings. In effect, ironically, arts
journalists at Die Burger were thus forced by structural factors to position themselves as protectors of
(the same) elitist art forms (classical music, ballet, theatre, fine arts) which was dominant in society
under apartheid.
In the process they were not only moving away from the strategic aims of their current owners
and managers and the popular mainstream of their white and coloured reader base, but also into

possible opposition to the ideology of the African renaissance and its focus on indigenous African
culture. Although it would seem that arts journalism at some Naspers publications in this respect
harbours some seeds of opposition to both commercial and political pressure through the agency of
some journalists, it could be difficult to sustain or develop without structural support (more about this

5.2.1 Field theory and Naspers

In the application of Bourdieu’s field theory to Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at Naspers, the
relationship between the agency of Afrikaners as a political and cultural group and the language of
Afrikaans will be discussed in the context of the development of the media company. Often
“Afrikaans” and “Afrikaners” are erroniously seen as synonymous, not least because Afrikaans was
appropriated by Afrikaner nationalism and deliberately promoted as such under apartheid.
The relationship between “Afrikaners” as a cultural and political group and “Afrikaans” as a
language needs to be clarified. Because of the link between apartheid and Afrikaner nationalism, the
facts of the multicultural and multiracial origins and development of Afrikaans were obscured to such
an extent that it may come as a surprise to some foreign observers that Afrikaans is currently also the
home language of roughly 3–4 million so-called coloured South Africans, who are historically often
excluded (also by themselves) from the definition of (white) “Afrikaners”.
Therefore, one of the consequences of apartheid for the Afrikaans-language community was a
clear division along racial and economic class lines, which persists to this day (see Jeffreys, 2005;
Visser, 2005; Wyngaard, 2004). Contrary to a widespread misconception, Afrikaner culture can
therefore only be seen as one variant of Afrikaans culture in general. For example, Afrikaans culture
also includes the large community of Cape (Malay) Moslems, who were influential in the development
of the language from its 17th-century Dutch origins.
In Bourdieu’s terms, Naspers depended on the exploitation and transformation of Afrikaner
habitus – a form of symbolic capital in part constituted by the fabrication and glorification of a direct,
historic and virtually exclusive link between Afrikaners and Afrikaans – to compete for economic and
cultural capital in the field of cultural production in the apartheid era. Because the company was in
close proximity to influential Afrikaner interests in the political and economic fields in the larger field
of power, it could compete successfully in its own, more heterogeneous, field (see Jacobs [2004] and
Horwitz [2001] for examples where Naspers profited from its allies in the field of power). Through its
own concentration of economic and cultural capital, Naspers in this way also contributed to the
process whereby Afrikaans and Afrikaner culture gained more social and symbolic capital, which in
turn was transferred into cultural and economic capital in the field of cultural production and other
related fields (see Muller, 1990).
For Naspers the demise of apartheid therefore presented a huge challenge. But contrary to
popular belief, the South African revolution did not occur overnight. The field of power in apartheid
society was altered gradually since as early as the 1960s and 1970s through internal competition as

well as the influence of new entrants into the field. Political changes, especially in the middle to late
1980s, meant that Naspers had to explore other political options than their partnership with and
reliance on the faltering NP (Bekker, 2005), while economic pressures and opportunities dictated
alternatives to Afrikaner culture and Afrikaans as a language medium (Vosloo, 2003).
In fact, the official democratization of South Africa since 1994 meant that changes in the field
of power were drastically accelerated. Not only did Naspers finally lose its powerful political ally of
more than half a century when the NP first capitulated and then collapsed, but the company also had to
reposition itself in terms of the new political elite, led by the ANC.
Most notably, after 1994 Afrikaner culture (and consequently Afrikaans) became less valuable
for Naspers in terms of its ability to be transformed into social and symbolic capital. In fact, already
during apartheid a countertrend emerged in which Afrikaans was (unfairly?) stigmatized because of its
association with Afrikaner habitus. Though not exclusively, Naspers’s cultural roots and profits were
still firmly situated in the Afrikaner community after 1994, and too drastic a political repositioning at
that stage could have threatened Naspers’s ability to compete for economic and cultural capital in the
changing field of cultural production (Wasserman, 2005).
But at the same time the changing political and socio-economic landscape since 1994 meant
that Naspers had to move away – and also be seen to move away – from any racial and sectarian
interests, especially those which could directly link the company to its apartheid history. Naspers’s
response was twofold.
In 1994–1995 Naspers listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, thereby officially
distancing itself from the remains of the political and economic fields of power established by
apartheid. Naspers restructured and became a public company with a diverse ownership and audience
base, by selling some shares to emerging black entrepreneurs (thus showing a “clear break with the
practices of Afrikaner capital”, according to Tomaselli (2000:286) and extending its operational focus
internationally. But, as was indicated above (see also Botma, 2006:96), Naspers’s complex and
shielding ownership and shareholding structure actually enabled the company to maintain its links to
traditional Afrikaner companies, such as the insurance gaint Sanlam, and in all probability also to
other influential Afrikaner groups and leaders who were part of the structure under apartheid.
Secondly Naspers used opportunities created by the democratization and internationalization
of South Africa to increase its diversification of cultural production in the media. Naspers was aided
by, and thoroughly made use of, the rapid development of technology and the convergence of
publishing platforms in the last decade to maintain a dominant position in the field.
It could be argued that Naspers’s involvement as sponsor and organiser of Afrikaans festivals
originated immediately after the fall of apartheid in an effort to protect their investment (in terms of
economic and cultural capital) in Afrikaners. But by emphasizing Afrikaans (and thus trying to
neutralize the link to Afrikaner nationalism and its stigmatized symbolic capital), Naspers could
appeal to the Afrikaans community as a whole (including “non-white” members). When, in reality,
mostly “white” Afrikaans speakers (Afrikaners) attended these sponsored festivals (see Prins, 2005;

Topley, 2005), Naspers responded by denouncing segregated festivals and applying strategies to draw
diverse audiences. When that did not change the situation substantially after more than five years –
and under direct pressure from a prominent “non-white” member of the Naspers board of directors
(Schneider, 2005) – the company started cultural festivals aimed in the main at “non-white” Afrikaans
speakers (Schneider, 2005), although they also tried to promote it as “inclusive” in an effort to “break
down apartheid barriers” (Bekker, 2005; Rossouw, 2005).
Unlike its thriving predominantly “white” Afrikaans counter parts, the most prominent of
these cultural projects aimed at “non-white” Afrikaans speakers, the annual Suidooster Festival in
Cape Town, struggled to gain momentum and popularity, despite efforts to include marginalized
Afrikaans artists and cultural forms (Schneider, 2005). One could argue that the Suidooster Festival
lacked (and still lacks) economic and cultural capital, but presented an opportunity for Naspers to
compete for social and symbolic capital, which in the new South African democracy is often
associated with the development of “previously disadvantaged” groups, like the culture of “non-white”
Afrikaans speakers. To be fair, the Suidooster Festival did attract a racially more “inclusive” Afrikaans
audience in the last few years, although the gap between Afrikaner audiences and the rest of the
language community, both in terms of numbers and available finances (for production and
consumption), is still very obvious at all the Afrikaans cultural festivals sponsored by Naspers through
the involvement of titles such as Die Burger and Huisgenoot.

Field theory and Die Burger and Huisgenoot

In terms of field theory the research shows that the nature of cultural capital at the newspaper Die
Burger and the magazine Huisgenoot has gradually shifted over time (and arguably quicker since
1994) to include significant elements of both previously excluded local (“non-white”) and
international pop culture in the mainstream. However, in their pursuit of economic capital both
publications have been forced to maintain strong links with Afrikaner habitus through the promotion
and production of publications, festivals and projects (aimed in theory at the broader Afrikaans
community, but in reality appealing mainly to Afrikaners).
Although it is safe to say that Afrikaner habitus has also changed (to accept voluntary
inclusion as a minority group in a multiracial and multilingual democracy), it still remains to be seen
whether the racial distinctions of apartheid will remain in the definition of “Afrikaner” and “Afrikaner
culture”. This could be an important factor in the future of Afrikaans as an official language, due to its
lingering negative associations with Afrikaner nationalism and apartheid, and, since 1994, more
prominently also with unfair economic advancement.
Democratization in 1994 and the loss of power of Afrikaners as a political group not only
reduced Die Burger’s ability to create symbolic, social and cultural capital, but exposed the newspaper
directly to economic pressures (to make a profit). It seems that the nature of cultural capital in the field
of the paper is in flux to such an extent that alternatives to and/or companions for Afrikaans as a

medium are seriously considered as options. It remains to be seen what such a move would mean for
this newspaper – and (other struggling) Afrikaans publications at Naspers in general.
Huisgenoot has been able to reposition itself culturally and economically even before the
demise of apartheid due to its relative political/editorial freedom to popularize its content in the pursuit
of profit (at the cost of artistic merit and intellectual depth). In the process it has seemingly stayed in
touch with the turn towards popular culture in the Afrikaner/Afrikaans community which occurred
decades ago. Huisgenoot could also thus extend its focus to include other languages and cultures
without any fear of losing its Afrikaans/Afrikaner support base. Although it seems that Huisgenoot
now also considers itself a symbolic/social and cultural agent in society at large, as illustrated by
efforts to mobilize its readers through “national” projects), it seems unrealistic in terms of its history to
predict that its future commitment to Afrikaans will either include a broadening (and intellectual
deepening) of its current cultural perspective, or will be sustained if economic survival dictates
Although journalists at Huisgenoot had seemingly resigned themselves decades ago to the
publication’s overt sensational and commercial approach, they currently still value professional
journalistic standards on practical levels such as newsgathering, writing, editing, design and page lay-
out, according to Froneman (2004).
Since commodification gathered momentum in all earnest in the late 1990s at Die Burger, arts
and culture journalists at the paper seemingly still tried to uphold a tradition of critical independence
from all authority in their critical analysis (through articles, interviews and reviews). But on the other
hand criticism originating from arts and culture journalism in the research period was also often
framed in the context of the popular movement towards a multicultural, inclusive constitutional
democracy which was accepted as official company and newspaper policy since 1994.
Because many readers of Die Burger openly professed (some) opposition to the new South
Africa and its predominantly black government (mostly on the opinion and letters pages), the focus of
liberal criticism on arts and culture pages in general shifted from the previous government to the
remainders of its conservative white Afrikaner constituency (rather than to the new government and its
policies). In fact, by attacking conservative opposition to projects like the African renaissance, arts and
culture journalists were in effect aligning themselves to government ideology.
Having said that, the implementation of aspects of the African renaissance in arts and culture,
like the restructuring of former state-subsidized theatre bodies and theatres, and the subsequent closing
down of some companies organized around “Eurocentric” art forms such as opera and ballet, also
drew fierce anti-government criticism from arts and culture writers at Die Burger. This emphasises the
point already made above – that arts journalists at Die Burger in some respects ended up in a position
removed from their own readers and in opposition to government policy on arts and culture.

6. Conclusion

In comparing findings from an application of Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model and
Bourdieu’s field theory to Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at Naspers, a number of trends clearly
In general the positioning of Afrikaans arts and culture journalism at two of its most
prominent publications seems to be on an intersection of different forces in the field of cultural
A micro-level application of the adapted propaganda model indicates that arts journalists at
Die Burger are trying through their agency, and may even be succceeding to a degree, to maintain a
tradition of critical independence from political and economic stakeholders and power groups and can
thus (still) be seen as a potential site where “empowering” cultural capital (in Bourdieu’ sense) can be
manufactured in the commercial mainstream Afrikaans media. At the same time this analysis also
suggests that Die Burger and Huisgenoot, as part of Naspers, seem to be positioned rather closely to
the powerful ruling elite.
The fact that on the whole more evidence points to structural superiority when one tries to
balance structural pressure with the oppositional agency of arts journalists, not necessarily indicates
that arts journalism at Die Burger is a weak site for the (potential) manufacturing of cultural capital
(and by implication then a strong site for manufacturing consent, as Herman and Chomsky predicted).
It may be the case that the propaganda model simply does not lend itself sufficiently to the description
of staff agency.
But, with the introduction of the concept of structuration – which combines structure and
agency – as well as Bourdieu’s field theory, this paper has argued a strong case that research results on
the micro level do indeed mirror those suggested clearly on a structural macro level: What looks like
true journalistic independence for arts journalists at individual Naspers publications, might in fact be a
rather powerless structural vacuum, devoid of support from both their owners/managers and readers
because of the radical shift in the political economic context of the South African media since 1994.

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