Local TV Markets and Elections


The ability of citizens to effectively control government depends on the information available to them. In terms of time spent, television is the most important information source of voters. Due the importance of animated pictures on television, TV news differ from news in newspapers in systematic ways. Person-related information is relatively more important than factual information and news are presented in a simpler style. Exploiting cross-sectional and longitudinal variation of access to local TV in Switzerland, this paper examines the impact of TV on the behavior of both voters and politicians. I find that the presence of local TV induces people with low and intermediate levels of education to consume more news and participate more in elections. Parties and politicians react to the presence of local TV stations by changing the focus of their election campaigns from issues of content to the promotion of people. Hence, the number of candidates for Council of States elections increases. The effects are strong when local TV markets match well with sub-national jurisdictions or electoral districts and are not statistically significant when local TV markets span over several jurisdictions.

Unpublished Working Paper