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Commercial Television and Voter Information

  • Prat, Andrea
  • Strömberg, David

What is the effect of liberalizing a country’s broadcasting system on the level of information of its citizens? To analyse this question, we first construct a model of state monopoly broadcasting where the government selects the amount of television news coverage of different public policy outcomes, and then sets public policy and political rents. Voters vote retrospectively given the news provided. In equilibrium, the incumbent provides some news coverage, and more so to groups for which reducing policy uncertainty is more important. We then introduce a profit-maximizing commercial channel. It provides more news coverage to groups of voters valuable to advertisers or underprovided by the state monopoly. We test our predictions on a panel of individuals interviewed in the elections before and after the entry of commercial TV in Sweden. We find that people who start watching commercial TV news increase their level of political knowledge more than those who do not. They also increase their political participation more. The positive informational effects are particularly valuable since commercial TV news attracts ex ante uniformed voters.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4989.

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Date of creation: Apr 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4989
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  1. Djankov, Simeon & McLeish, Caralee & Nenova, Tatiana & Shleifer, Andrei, 2001. "Who owns the media?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2620, The World Bank.
  2. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1997. "Voting Behavior and Information Aggregation in Elections with Private Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1029-1058, September.
  3. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2002. "The Political Economy Of Government Responsiveness: Theory And Evidence From India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1415-1451, November.
  4. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse Shapiro, 2005. "Media Bias and Reputation," NBER Working Papers 11664, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Matthew Gentzkow & Edward L. Glaeser & Claudia Goldin, 2006. "The Rise of the Fourth Estate. How Newspapers Became Informative and Why It Mattered," NBER Chapters, in: Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History, pages 187-230 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Simon P. Anderson & Stephen Coate, 2000. "Market Provision of Public Goods: The Case of Broadcasting," NBER Working Papers 7513, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2002. "Political Economics: Explaining Economic Policy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661314, June.
  8. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "Media Bias," NBER Working Papers 9295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Bengt Holmstrom, 1999. "Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective," NBER Working Papers 6875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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