The ‘propaganda model’ of news production in capitalist democracies elaborated by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in 1988 was met with initial hostile criticism and then more or less complete neglect. In the last five years, there has been a renewal of interest, although opinion remains seriously divided. This article adopts a sympathetic stance towards the main ideas of the model, but suggests that there are a number of ways in which in its classical iteration it is insufficiently sensitive to the nature of the pressures and constraints on news production arising from the economic and political realities of capitalist democracy. If one takes account of these complexities and modifies the model accordingly, it is possible to give a much more complete account of processes of news production and to respond effectively to the main criticisms that have been advanced against Herman and Chomsky’s views. From this perspective, rather than the tendency towards uniformity predicted by the classical iteration of the model, it becomes possible to account for the real, if limited, variety of news and opinion that are observable features of mass media. It further follows from this account that the majority of ordinary journalists, far from being the more or less willing collaborators in propaganda, are potentially allies of those who wish to build a different and better world.