Political Science & International Relations Seminar Series
“Favor Exchanges And Pro-Government Media Bias”
Abstract: A free press is a pillar of democracy, but in our era of democratic backsliding, many aspiring autocrats have undermined media freedom. Extant research has focused on censorship laws and state advertising as tools to capture the media. I argue that state contracts in non-media sectors represent an important tool for influencing media coverage. Conglomerates with diverse economic interests increasingly own media outlets. State contracts provide aspiring autocrats with a valuable carrot to incentivize conglomerate-owned media for pro-government coverage. I test this argument by analyzing a vast corpus of newspaper articles from Turkey and exploiting a legal change that increased the government’s discretion over distributing state contracts. Constructing a context-aware bias measure using machine learning and analyzing the universe of all state contracts, I show that conglomerate-owned newspapers are more pro-government than other newspapers. This bias grows with the government’s discretion. In return, these conglomerates secure state contracts on favorable terms.
Fatih Serkant Adıgüzel
(Middle East Initiative Predoctoral Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School
December 6, 2021, 19.00 PM
Meeting ID: 930 7826 2368