Opposition Media, State Censorship, and Political Accountability: Evidence from Chavez's Venezuela
This paper investigates the role of opposition media and state censorship in political accountability using evidence from the closing of RCTV, a popular opposition television channel in Venezuela. The government did not renew RCTV's license, and the channel was replaced overnight, during May 2007, by a pro-government channel. Based upon this censorship of opposition television, we have three key findings. First, using Nielsen ratings data, viewership fell, following the closing of RCTV, on the pro-government replacement, but rose on Globovision, the only remaining television channel for opposition viewers. This finding is consistent with a model in which viewers have a preference for opposition television and substitute accordingly. Second, exploiting the geographic location of the Globovision broadcast towers, Chavez approval ratings fell following the closing of RCTV in places with access to the Globovision signal, relative to places without access. Third, in places with access to the Globovision signal, relative to places without, support for Chavez in electoral data also fell following the closing of RCTV. Taken together, these findings suggest that opposition media and viewer responses to censorship can help to hold governments and incumbent politicians accountable.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25916