Viewpoint Diversity and Media Consolidation: An Empirical Study

66 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2008

See all articles by Daniel E. Ho

Daniel E. Ho

Stanford Law School

Kevin M. Quinn

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: March 11, 2008


One of the central predicates of legal regulation of media ownership is that ownership consolidation reduces substantive viewpoint diversity. Appellate courts and in turn the Federal Communications Commission have increasingly demanded evidence for this convergence hypothesis, but extant empirical measures of viewpoint diversity sidestep the problem, ignoring diversity, viewpoints, or both. Our article develops and offers a finely-tuned, time-varying statistical measure of editorial viewpoint diversity, based on a new database of over 1600 editorials in 25 top papers from 1988-2004. Using this new measure, we assess the validity of the convergence hypothesis by examining the evolution of editorial viewpoints over the course of five major mergers and acquisitions. Our data reveals complex patterns that defy extant accounts, showing stability, convergence and divergence of viewpoints in the face of - and depending on the circumstances of - consolidation. These findings fundamentally challenge extant empirical regulatory assumptions - pointing to the crucial role of editorial policies - and deeply inform the viability of the ownership regulations and the interpretation of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

Keywords: viewpoint diversity, media, consolidation, item response theory

Suggested Citation

Ho, Daniel E. and Quinn, Kevin M., Viewpoint Diversity and Media Consolidation: An Empirical Study (March 11, 2008). 3rd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Papers, Available at SSRN: or

Daniel E. Ho

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-723-9560 (Phone)


Kevin M. Quinn (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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