Public Media Do Serve the State: a Field Experiment
Abstract: We have conducted a randomized field experiment in collaboration with the nation's major public service broadcasting in which the capacity for viewing its programs has been randomly increased. We find the positive effect on the viewing time of the programs. Moreover, we find that the treated group has more positively evaluated the government's foreign policies than the control group after the treatment. To further study the mechanism, we use unsupervised machine learning to measure semantic similarity between the contents of TV programs and the official statements made by domestic and foreign governments. We find that programs in the public media are closer to the domestic government's statements than to the foreign government's statements. Programs in the private media, in contrast, show the opposite pattern. We find suggesting evidence that the positive evaluation on foreign policies is likely to be explained by individuals' being exposed to slanted information in favor of the domestic government. In contrast to previous studies showing media slant in the right-left political spectrum, this study adds a new empirical evidence that media slant in the domestic-foreign spectrum persuades viewers in support of the domestic government.