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Panem et circenses: removing political news to generate electoral support, evidence from Berlusconi’s Italy


De Angelis, Andrea; Vecchiato, Alessandro (2024). Panem et circenses: removing political news to generate electoral support, evidence from Berlusconi’s Italy. Rivista italiana di scienza politica:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

This paper examines the strategic use of public news media – specifically television (TV) – as an instrument of political influence, focusing on Italy's 2011 financial crisis under Berlusconi's premiership. Using an original large corpus of over 20,000 hours of televised news transcripts and a quasi-experimental design, we investigate how political influence altered media coverage and, subsequently, public opinion and electoral outcomes. Our difference-in-differences analysis, complemented by unsupervised text scaling of news content, reveals a significant shift from “hard” political news to “soft” news on public TV during Berlusconi's tenure. Findings suggest a deliberate reduction in hard news coverage by an average of 107 seconds daily, which significantly increased voter support for Berlusconi's party. In the conclusions, we discuss the broader implications of our findings for media independence in Western democracies amid the emergence of artificial intelligence-generated news contents and the prevalence of algorithmically tailored news feeds.

Abstract

This paper examines the strategic use of public news media – specifically television (TV) – as an instrument of political influence, focusing on Italy's 2011 financial crisis under Berlusconi's premiership. Using an original large corpus of over 20,000 hours of televised news transcripts and a quasi-experimental design, we investigate how political influence altered media coverage and, subsequently, public opinion and electoral outcomes. Our difference-in-differences analysis, complemented by unsupervised text scaling of news content, reveals a significant shift from “hard” political news to “soft” news on public TV during Berlusconi's tenure. Findings suggest a deliberate reduction in hard news coverage by an average of 107 seconds daily, which significantly increased voter support for Berlusconi's party. In the conclusions, we discuss the broader implications of our findings for media independence in Western democracies amid the emergence of artificial intelligence-generated news contents and the prevalence of algorithmically tailored news feeds.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Social Sciences & Humanities > Political Science and International Relations
Uncontrolled Keywords:economic crisis, electoral democracy, media and politics, media effects, text analysis
Language:English
Date:6 February 2024
Deposited On:19 Feb 2024 15:06
Last Modified:31 Mar 2024 01:40
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0048-8402
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/ipo.2023.32
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)