Hosting Media Bias: Evidence from the Universe of French Broadcasts, 2002-2020
46 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2022 Last revised: 9 Nov 2023
Date Written: February 16, 2022
Democracies need informed voters – voters who are exposed to a diverse range of views. News media take an active role in the process of informing voters; yet, they vary in their coverage of political views. In this paper, we explore whether differences in political coverage are mainly driven by the editorial choices of (a few) owners, or by the preferences of journalists, or both. To do so, we build a novel dataset on millions of French television and radio shows over 20 years, with information on the identity of hosts, guests, and guests’ political leaning. We estimate a two-way fixed effects model identified thanks to the many hosts working on multiple channels. We show that hosts largely comply with outlet-level decisions, which account for around 90% of cross-channel differences in political representation. Complementing these results, we study how hosts adapted to a major ownership-driven change in editorial line, and find that the hosts who stay after the takeover comply with the new owner’s preferences. Our findings have important implications for the optimal regulation of the media industry. We also show the limitations of existing legal rules regarding media pluralism and fair access to the media and the urgent need to foster comparative research on alternative regulations.
Keywords: Media bias, Slant, Journalists, Product differentiation, Media ownership, Competition
JEL Classification: L15, L82
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation