Media convergence and the chilling effect of broadcast licensing

  • Weare C
  • Levi T
  • Raphael J
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Many scholars have lamented the regulation of electronic media as an encroachment on the First Amendment guarantee of press freedom. They argue that the licensing process creates the possibility and means for politicians to meddle with broadcasters' content decisions, and they cite a long history of political interference to support their claims. From this literature, the authors define three specific hypotheses concerning the chilling effect of broadcast regulation:(1) news organizations with broadcast holdings will present more positive coverage of elected officials, (2) news organizations with broadcast holdings will present a narrower range of editorial positions, and (3) these effects will be magnified when political control of the presidency and Congress is united under a single party. These hypotheses are subjected to a rigorous empirical test based on 469 newspaper editorials commenting on presidential State of the Union addresses between 1970 and 1995. The authors predict the expected editorial stance of newspapers as a function of environmental and internal factors and define editorial bias as the difference between their expected and observed editorial stances. Based on these data, support is found for the chilling hypothesis. Newspapers with broadcast holdings systematically write editorials that are more positive, and the difference is statistically significant. They also tend to offer a narrower range of editorial positions, although this difference does not attain standard levels of statistical significance. These effects, however, do not appear to be magnified by unified party control of the executive and legislative branches. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR] Copyright of Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics is the property of Sage Publications Inc. and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)

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  • Christopher Weare

  • Titus Levi

  • Jordan Raphael

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