How Autocrats Manipulate Economic News: Evidence from Russia's State-Controlled Television

Journal of Politics, Forthcoming

54 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2017 Last revised: 10 Jul 2018

See all articles by Arturas Rozenas

Arturas Rozenas

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Denis Stukal

New York University (NYU), Department of Politics, Students

Date Written: May 7, 2018

Abstract

Conventional wisdom says that autocrats manipulate news through censorship. But when it comes to economic affairs -- a highly sensitive topics for modern autocrats -- the government's ability to censor information effectively is limited, because citizens can benchmark the official news against their incomes, market prices, and other observables. We propose that instead of censoring economic facts, the media tactically frames those facts to make the government appear as a competent manager. Using a corpus of daily news reports from Russia's largest state-owned television network, we document extensive evidence supporting this prediction. Bad news is not censored, but it is systematically blamed on external factors, whereas good news is systematically attributed to domestic politicians. Such selective attribution is used more intensely in politically sensitive times (elections and protests) and when the leadership is already enjoying high popular support -- consistent with the existing theories of information manipulation.

Keywords: Media, Propaganda, Autocracy, Russia, Economy

Suggested Citation

Rozenas, Arturas and Stukal, Denis, How Autocrats Manipulate Economic News: Evidence from Russia's State-Controlled Television (May 7, 2018). Journal of Politics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3023254 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3023254

Arturas Rozenas (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

19 West 4
New York, NY 10012
United States

Denis Stukal

New York University (NYU), Department of Politics, Students ( email )

New York, NY
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.denisstukal.com

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