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Media as a Tool for Institutional Change in Development

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This paper reviews the channels through which the media can be a tool of institutional development, building the argument in two parts. First I focus on the media as a tool for accountability: by providing information on candidates ex ante, and on politicians’ performance ex post, an independent media can allow the system of checks and balances embedded in a democracy to work, ensure that electoral threat incentivise governments, and ultimately improve the functioning of institutions. I analyse how media content of the media is determined, focusing in particular on media bias. The issue of media bias is particularly salient in weak institutional contexts, where the media may be captured by powerful interests or by the ruling elite. Second, I discuss how the media can be used to change citizens’ preferences and values, as an intermediate step to changing institutions. After reviewing the psychological theories underlying the role of media in this setting, I analyse the policy implications, with special reference to educational entertainment (edutainment) solutions. This includes an analysis of the potential for these types of programs as a tool for conveying information on government and institutional features of society, as well as for shaping individual beliefs and expectations.

Author(s): Eliana La Ferrara

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