Media competition, information provision and political participation:Evidence from French local newspapers and elections, 1944–2014
Journal of Public Economics
NL : Elsevier B.V.
Forthcoming in print
Media Competition, Newspaper Content, Size of the newsroom, Hard News, Soft News, Political Participation, Media Capture, Governance
This paper investigates the impact of increased media competition on the quantity and quality of news provided and, ultimately, on political participation. I build a new county-level panel dataset of local newspaper presence, newspapers' number of journalists, costs and revenues and political turnout in France, from 1944 to 2014. I estimate the effect of newspaper entry by comparing counties that experience entry to similar counties in the same years that do not. Both sets of counties exhibit similar trends prior to entry, but those with entry experience substantial declines in the average number of journalists. An increased number of newspapers is also associated with fewer articles and less hard news provision. Newspaper entry, and the associated decline in information provision, is ultimately found to decrease voter turnout at local elections. Exploiting the long time span covered by my data, I discuss a number of mechanisms that may drive these empirical findings. First, I examine the relationship between increased competition and media capture in the aftermath of WW2, when newspapers were biased and the advertising market was underdeveloped. I then show that in the recent period the effects are stronger in counties with more homogeneous populations, as predicted by a vertical product differentiation framework, whereas there is little impact in counties with more heterogeneous populations.