Public Television, Private Television and Citizens’ Political Knowledge
Title: Public Television, Private Television and Citizens’ Political Knowledge
Series/Report no.: EUI RSCAS; 2009/66
This paper examines cross-national variance in the impact of public and commercial television on citizens’ political knowledge level and whether and how that variance may be related to differences in the content of public television broadcast. Multilevel models are used to link micro-level information on citizen knowledge from the European Election Studies of 1999 and 2004 to macro-level information about media systems and how public television operates in different contexts that we compiled from a variety of information sources. We find that exposure to news programs on public and private television channels are both positively associated with political knowledge after stringent controls for possible shared determinants of news exposure and knowledge, but only among less interested citizens. While exposure to news on public television appears to have, on average, a more positive effect than exposure to news on private channels, the difference is not significant and varies greatly across contexts. Public television seems more effective in informing citizens in countries where public television is largely independent of commercial revenue and uses its public funding to provide a particularly large amount of news and information programs for a politically very heterogeneous audience. However, private television appears to have the advantage in countries characterized by the opposite characteristics and relatively lower levels of press freedom. The discussion relates our findings to debates about the virtues of public broadcasting.
Subject: political knowledge; mass media; public television; telecommunication regulation; cross-national comparison; multilevel models
Type of Access: openAccess