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Government Control of the Media

  • Scott Gehlbach


    (University of Wisconsin, Madison - Department of Political Science)

  • Konstantin Sonin


    (New Economic School; Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR))

We present a formal model of government control of the media to illuminate variation in media freedom across countries and over time, with particular application to less democratic states. The extent of media freedom depends critically on two variables: the mobilizing character of the government and the size of the advertising market. Media bias is greater and state ownership of the media more likely when the need for mobilization is large; however, the distinction between state and private media is smaller. Large advertising markets reduce media bias in both state and private media, but increase the incentive for the government to nationalize private media. We illustrate these arguments with a case study of media freedom in postcommunist Russia, where media bias has responded to the mobilizing needs of the Kremlin and government control over the media has grown in tandem with the size of the advertising market.

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Paper provided by Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR) in its series Working Papers with number w0126.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cfr:cefirw:w0126
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