Media Competition, Information Provision and Political Participation: Evidence from French Local Newspapers and Elections, 1944-2014
This paper investigates the impact of increased media competition on the quantity and quality of news provided and, ultimately, on political participation. Drawing upon existing literature on vertical product differentiation, I explore the conditions under which an increase in the number of newspapers can decrease both the quantity and quality of news provided. I build a new county-level panel dataset of local newspaper presence, newspapers' newsrooms, costs and revenues and political turnout in France, from 1944 to 2014. I estimate the effect of newspaper entry by comparing counties that experience entry to similar counties in the same years that do not. Both sets of counties exhibit similar trends prior to newspaper entry, but those with entry experience substantial declines in the average number of journalists (business-stealing effect). An increased number of newspapers is also associated with fewer articles and less hard news provision. These effects are stronger in counties with more homogeneous populations, as predicted by my simple theoretical framework, whereas there is little impact in counties with more heterogeneous populations. Newspaper entry, and the associated decline in information provision, is ultimately found to decrease voter turnout at local elections.
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