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Three essays on media politics in democracies and autocracies

Sheen, Greg Chih-Hsin (2019) Three essays on media politics in democracies and autocracies. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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My dissertation discusses information problems encountered by dictators and voters. In the first essay titled Media with Reputational Concerns: Yes Men or Watchdogs? I consider why the media tend to endorse the government instead of reporting critically. Traditionally this is explained by media capture or the policy bias of the media. Analyzing a cheap-talk model, I suggest that the media outlets reputational concerns can on its own cause such media behaviour. This is true even when the media outlets are on average believed to be more competent than the government, and when the media market is perfectly competitive. In the second essay titled Tell Me the Truth? Dictatorship and the Commitment to Media Freedom (jointly with Hans H. Tung and Wen-Chin Wu), we formally show that the dictator faces a commitment problem to uphold a promised level of media freedom. Anticipating the threat after truth-reporting, the media might self-censor their reports in advance. The dictator thus suffers from information insufficiency. This paper further characterizes the situations when the commitment problem is more severe and provides empirical implications that can help reinterpret the recent conclusion on the censorship strategy of the Chinese government, in particular, King, Roberts and Pan (2013). 4 In the third essay titled Reputation and Media Selection, by applying the analytic framework proposed by Tadelis (1999, 2002) that reputation is a tradable asset, I argue that providing reputational information about media outlets to the public, a commonly recommended remedy for addressing low-quality reporting, might not be effective because of the possibility of media ownership transactions. Low-quality editorial teams can survive by acquiring names from reputable newspapers through acquisitions or mergers. I discuss potential institutional and governmental interventions that could improve social welfare once introduced along with provision of media reputational information.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Greg Chih-Hsin Sheen
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Dewan, Torun and Wolton, Stephane and Hortala-Vallve, Rafael

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