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Does Media Ownership Affect Media Stands? The Case of the Telecommunications Act of 1996


  • James H. Snider
  • Bejamin I. Page


Democratic theory suggests that media should act in the interests of ordinary citizens. If a highly influential segment of the media presents information in a way that systematically favors its interests over other interests, democracy may be weakened. Media organizations, reacting to concern about such "bias," often insist that they follow a "norm of objectivity," separating their business interests from their news operations. Media scholars tend to confirm that such a norm of objectivity pervades newsrooms. On February 1, 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, one provision of which gave existing TV broadcasters free usage of spectrum valued at between $11 and $70 billion. Opponents called this a "giveaway" and one of the largest "corporate welfare" programs in United States history. In the months preceding and following passage of the Act, TV broadcasters actively lobbied against their opponents. The research here suggests that the separation of "church and state" was crossed; media owners' economic interests affected their news coverage. Generalizations from this case should be made with caution because of the extraordinarily high stakes involved for media owners.

Suggested Citation

  • James H. Snider & Bejamin I. Page, "undated". "Does Media Ownership Affect Media Stands? The Case of the Telecommunications Act of 1996," IPR working papers 97-12, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:nwuipr:97-12

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. LaLonde, Robert J, 1986. "Evaluating the Econometric Evaluations of Training Programs with Experimental Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 604-620, September.
    2. Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1998. "Private School Vouchers and Student Achievement: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 553-602.
    3. St. Pierre, Robert G. & Cook, Thomas D. & Straw, Roger B., 1981. "An evaluation of the nutrition education and training program : Findings from Nebraska," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 4(3-4), pages 335-344, January.
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