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Does conflict of interest lead to biased coverage? : evidence from movie reviews

Author: Stefano Della Vigna; Johannes Hermle; National Bureau of Economic Research,
Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : National Bureau of Economic Research, 2014.
Series: Working paper series (National Bureau of Economic Research), no. 20661.
Edition/Format:   eBook : Document : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
Media outlets are increasingly owned by conglomerates, inducing a conflict of interest: a media outlet can bias its coverage to benefit companies in the same group. We test for bias by examining movie reviews by media outlets owned by News Corp. -- such as the Wall Street Journal -- and by Time Warner -- such as Time. We use a matching procedure based on reported preferences to disentangle bias due to conflict of  Read more...
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Material Type: Document, Internet resource
Document Type: Internet Resource, Computer File
All Authors / Contributors: Stefano Della Vigna; Johannes Hermle; National Bureau of Economic Research,
OCLC Number: 897473794
Notes: "November 2014"
Description: 1 online resource (40 pages, 13 unnumbered pages) : illustrations.
Series Title: Working paper series (National Bureau of Economic Research), no. 20661.
Responsibility: Stefano DellaVigna, Johannes Hermle.

Abstract:

Media outlets are increasingly owned by conglomerates, inducing a conflict of interest: a media outlet can bias its coverage to benefit companies in the same group. We test for bias by examining movie reviews by media outlets owned by News Corp. -- such as the Wall Street Journal -- and by Time Warner -- such as Time. We use a matching procedure based on reported preferences to disentangle bias due to conflict of interest from correlated tastes. We find no evidence of bias in the reviews for 20th Century Fox movies in the News Corp. outlets, nor for the reviews of Warner Bros. movies in the Time Warner outlets. We can reject even small effects, such as biasing the review by one extra star (out of four) every 13 movies. We test for differential bias when the return to bias is plausibly higher, examine bias by media outlet and by journalist, as well as editorial bias. We also consider bias by omission: whether the media at conflict of interest are more likely to review highly-rated movies by affiliated studios. In none of these dimensions do we find systematic evidence of bias. Lastly, we document that conflict of interest within a movie aggregator does not lead to bias either. We conclude that media reputation in this competitive industry acts as a powerful disciplining force.

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