Eliana La Ferrara, Bocconi University

“News vs. Novelas: Can Entertainment Media Undermine Dictatorships?”


We investigate the extent to which media vehicles are prone to political capture in the context of the Brazilian dictatorship. We study the effects of Rede Globo, the primary Brazilian television station, on electoral outcomes of mayoral elections during the dictatorship. We exploit staggered entry of the network across municipalities and, contrary to anecdotal evidence, we find that the vote share of the ruling party ARENA decreased after Globo’s entry. To understand this effect, we code the content of Brazilian soap operas (novelas) during this period and show that exposure to novelas with political content has a negative effect on ARENA’s vote-share. These results suggest that media capture in the news may be offset by political content in entertainment programs, to the extent that the latter is less strictly monitored.

Eliana La Ferrara is professor at Bocconi University and Fondazione Romeo ed Enrica Invernizzi Chair in Development Economics, current - Scientific Director, Laboratory for Effective Anti-Poverty Policies (LEAP)

Her research fields are Development economics, political economics, public economics.

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