Media, Development, and Institutional Change
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Media, Development, and Institutional Change

Christopher J. Coyne and Peter T. Leeson

Media, Development, and Institutional Change investigates mass media’s profound ability to affect institutional change and economic development. The authors use the tools of economics to illuminate the media’s role in enabling and inhibiting political–economic reforms that promote development.
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Chapter 3: The Determinants of Media Effectiveness

Christopher J. Coyne and Peter T. Leeson


INTRODUCTION Media serves a critical role in a free society by checking government and generating the common knowledge necessary for the change and reinforcement of policies and institutions. However, the effectiveness of media in these roles varies across societies and countries. What factors contribute to the effectiveness of media? Our goal in this chapter is to explore the answer to this question. We analyze four main determinants that influence the effectiveness of the media. In each case we make the connection between the factor under consideration and the Reformers’ Dilemma model developed in Chapter 2, as well as the impact of these factors on the three effects of media—gradual, punctuation and reinforcement— discussed in Chapter 1. Specifically, we consider how each determinant influences media as a check on government actors and as a mechanism of policy and institutional change. The first factor we consider is government intervention in the media industry. We identify four main avenues through which government can manipulate the media and consider the impact of those manipulations on the media’s effectiveness as a credible check on government. We also consider how government manipulation influences the divergence between private and public preferences for change. We then turn our focus to the legal environment in which media outlets must operate. Our main focus here is on laws regarding the availability of information, as well as laws protecting journalists and media employees from threats, intimidation and lawsuits. The third factor we analyze is the quality of the media. Even...

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