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Commenter I am not writes:

It’s an empirical question as to how much leeway a proprietor has to influence debate without losing eyeballs. What I think the leftist analysis misses is that proprietors aren’t the only ones exploiting this leeway – editors and journalists are too.

This is an empirical question, and it’s one I’d like to see studied in greater depth.  (If you’re aware of existing research, please post links.)  I would think that political polling firms, largely dormant when elections are further away, would be interested in studying the interaction between policy preferences and media.  And if not polling firms, then perhaps academic social scientists.

On the broader point of media influence, I agree that media figures–owners, editors, writers, bloggers(!?)–have the power to influence people.  I think that the liberal narrative I hinted at earlier can be paraphrased as: conservative media power is both more concentrated and, as a whole stronger, than liberal media power.  Or in contrarian moderate terms, American conservatives, on average, tend to be lower down on the vertical axis of my two-dimension political axis.  That is, the average American conservative is more to accept the arguments that a small number of conservative media figures proclaim than is the average American liberal.

I’m sympathetic to this broad claim, with the relative abundance of low-quality, high-popularity conservative media serving as evidence, but the extreme version of this position–that all tea partiers are mindless drones that can be converted to any position at any time at the whim of four people–is wildly absurd.

One Comment

  1. American news media work very differently to ours, but here in Britain we have an interesting dynamic. We have 8 proper national newspapers (plus the Daily Star, which used to be communist but is now just celebrities, tits and football). And these newspapers form matched pairs:

    The Sun (working class right) vs The Mirror (socialist left) – low quality tabloid “red tops”
    The Mail (bourgeois right) vs The Express (mixed left) – mid-market semi-tabs
    The Telegraph (traditional right) vs The Guardian (progressive left) – high quality doctrinaire broadsheets
    The Times (centrist right) vs The Independent (progressive left) – high quality centrist broadsheets

    These pairs are not EXACT because The Times and The Telegraph are to an extent rivals for centre-right readers, but they are pretty damn good, especially at the red top and mid-market level, where each newspaper is defining itself against its matched pair. And what’s fascinating is that in every single pair, the right-wing newspaper simply kills the left-wing one, in terms of profits and circulation – this despite the fact that the Conservatives haven’t got above 50% of the vote since 1931.

    The lion’s share of TV and radio, however, is controlled by the BBC, which takes a similar political position to the Guardian – the leftmost of all the newspapers.

    I don’t know what is the explanation. The left don’t like newspapers? Private-sector newspapers are filling the gap of right-wing news caused by the state distortion of the TV market? Chance?

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