Primetime Spin: Media Bias and Belief Confirming Information

28 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2006

See all articles by Jeremy Burke

Jeremy Burke

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2007


This paper develops a model of media bias in which rational agents acquire all their news from the source that is most likely to confirm their prior beliefs. Despite only wishing to make the correct decision, agents act as if they enjoy receiving news that supports their preconceptions. By exclusively gathering information from a source biased towards his prior, there is little chance an agent will be persuaded to change his mind. Moreover, it is shown that even an unbiased agent prefers to receive biased news as it is unlikely to produce conflicting reports. The media caters to the informational demands of consumers and accordingly slants its reporting. It is shown that competition may not decrease bias, but may actually enhance it. Finally, even when it increases bias, competition may improve welfare by expanding the market for news.

Keywords: Media, Bias, News Organizations, Confirmatory Bias

JEL Classification: C73, D83, L82

Suggested Citation

Burke, Jeremy, Primetime Spin: Media Bias and Belief Confirming Information (February 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Jeremy Burke (Contact Author)

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) ( email )

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