Controlling the Airwaves: Incumbency Advantage and Community Radio in Brazil

Abstract

Direct influence over communication media is a potent resource during electoral campaigns, and politicians have an incentive to gain control of the airwaves to advance their careers. In this article, we use data on community radio license applications in Brazil to identify both the causal effect of incumbency on politicians’ ability to control the media and the causal effect of media control on their future electoral prospects. Using a regression discontinuity design, we compare city council candidates who barely won or barely lost an election, showing that incumbency more than doubles the probability of an application’s approval by the Ministry of Communications. Next, using genetic matching, we compare candidates who acquired community radio licenses before an election to similar politicians who did not, showing that a radio station substantially increases one’s vote share and probability of victory. These findings demonstrate that media control helps entrench local political power in Brazil.

Publication
American Journal of Political Science
Date