From policy interest to media appearance: Interest group activity and media bias

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Abstract

Media attention is a scarce, yet attractive, resource for interest groups. Existing studies show that media attention is concentrated on a relatively small number of well-resourced groups, often representing economic interests. However, the literature still struggles to disentangle the reasons behind this bias in media attention. Is it explained by media selection practices or uneven interest group activity? We cannot separate these two possible mechanisms by simply studying aggregate levels of media attention. In this study, we therefore compare the set of groups that lobby in specific policy areas with the groups that appear in the news on issues related to those same policy areas. The investigation is based on data from Denmark and the United Kingdom. First, we use survey data to identify the policy areas in which groups actively lobby. Second, we identify groups’ media appearances in news stories related to those same policy areas. Third, we compare diversity among the groups actively lobbying with the groups actually appearing in the news and investigate possible biases. We find that even when the analysis of media appearances is narrowed down to only those groups active in a policy area, the news media allow more access to well-resourced groups. However, in contrast to previous findings, differences in media appearances across interest group types are not reproduced. These results imply that media selection biases are mainly produced by varying lobbying resources rather than discrimination based on the type of interests that groups represent.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe International Journal of Press/Politics
Volume25
Issue4
Pages (from-to)712-731
Number of pages20
ISSN1940-1612
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • advocacy
  • civil society
  • interest groups
  • media bias

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