Corporate Ownership and News Bias: Newspaper Coverage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act

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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to assess the influence of corporate media owners over news content. In particular, we address the claim that the financial interests of corporate owners lead America's news bureaus to downplay the significant issues surrounding the growing concentration of ownership of the country's mass media. To do so we examine newspaper coverage of one aspect of the 1996 Telecommunications Act: the loosening of restrictions on television ownership. We compare coverage of this aspect of the Telecommunications Act in newspapers owned by companies that stood to gain from the loosening of these restrictions, with coverage in newspapers owned by companies which did not stand to gain. We find substantial differences in how newspapers reported on these proposed regulatory changes depending on the financial interests of their corporate owners.

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