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Durante, R., Pinotti, P., Tesei, A. (2013). The Political Legacy of News-Free Television: Evidence from the Rise of Berlusconi
Can news-free media influence political behavior? We investigate this issue in the context of Italy exploiting differences across municipalities in the early availability of Silvio Berlusconi’s private TV network, Mediaset, due to its staggered introduction over the national territory and to idiosyncratic geomorphological factors. We find that municipalities exposed to Mediaset prior to 1985 exhibit greater electoral support for Berlusconi’s party when he first ran for office in 1994, relative to municipalities that were exposed only later on. This effect, quantified between 1 and 2 percentage points, tends to persist in following elections and is very significant and robust to several specifications and falsification tests. This effect can hardly be explained by differential exposure to partisan bias in the news, since news programs on Mediaset channels were introduced only in 1991, when these  were already available to the entire population. Instead, we present evidence that earlier exposure to commercial TV is associated with a substantial decline in social capital consistent with the diffusion of a culture of individualism and civic disengagement that characterized Mediaset programs and which favored Berlusconi’s political message.

Authors

Durante, Ruben

Ruben Durante is Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics of Sciences Po University in Paris.

Pinotti, Paolo

Paolo Pinotti is Assistant Professor of Economics at Bocconi University, in the Department of Policy Analysis and Public Management. He got a Ph.D. in economics from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in 2009 and he worked at the research department of the Bank of Italy from 2007 to 2011. He also spent...

Tesei, Andrea

Andrea Tesei is Assistant Professor at Queen Mary University of London. He received his PhD from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in 2012. In the past, he worked at the research department of the Bank for International Settlements in Hong Kong. His research interests include economic development, political...

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