Title: Media as Watchdogs: The Role of News Media in Electoral Competition
Reference Number: 1082
Publication Date: March 2004
JEL Classifcation: D720, D820

Jimmy Chan
John Hopkins University

Wing Suen
The University of Hong Kong

We develop an equilibrium model to analyze the role of the media in electoral competition. Policy payoffs in the model are state dependent. We show that voters cannot infer the state directly from off-equilibrium party policies. As a result, party policies do not converge to the median voter's ideal policy when the media report only party strategies. News analyses that convey information about the state allow voters to identify the party that serves their interests. Competition for positive news coverage causes political parties to adopt more centrist policies. In equilibrium voters interpret the news srategically. Mass media that are likely to have the same policy preference as the median voter are more effective in promoting electoral competition, resulting in greater policy convergence. However, since voters are rational, media that are more biased need not be less effective.

Published in European Economic Review 53:7 (October 2009), pp. 799-814.

Key words: media bias, cheap talk, policy convergence

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Last modified: 09/15/2010