This article examines the evolution of the African National Congress’ (ANC) media policy, with specific emphasis on policy developed for the party’s 2002 and 2007 national conferences. It considers how the ANC has used critical political economy arguments to justify its media policy, and concludes that the party has shifted recently towards appropriating these arguments selectively to justify positions that are deeply inimical to media freedom: an approach that was not evident in its earlier policy-making. This shift in emphasis suggests an elite drift in the ANC’s policy, where the shielding of its leaders from criticism becomes the party’s overriding concern. While the ANC’s policy has much to offer in helping South Africa to confront the deficiencies in the post-apartheid media system – which is characterised by highly uneven development – the party demonstrates a lack of vision on media diversity questions. The major academic analyses of post-apartheid media transformation have not helped to chart a way forward either, owing in part to the academy’s theoretical flight from critical political economy with its emphasis on concepts like class, determination and totality. The failure to analyse transformation of the media system as a whole has meant that media theorists failed to predict the uneven nature of media transformation. In the absence of a radical counter-discourse on media transformation, the way is clear for the ANC to mobilise popular discontent with the elite nature of much media, which may bolster arguments for more media controls.