Welcome to another in my occasional series on useful, interesting or controversial findings from academic studies. Today it is a study into the impact of public service broadcasting which looked at the US, the UK, Denmark and Finland.
These four countries were chosen because Denmark and Finland have a very strong TV public service approach, the US close to a pure-market based system and the UK is somewhere in-between.
TV news in Denmark and Finland was more likely to have hard news (“news reports about topics such as politics, public administration, the economy and science”), with the US and UK lower. Denmark and Finland also had a higher proportion of international news than the US, with this time the UK up at the Danish and Finnish end of the spectrum.
The full academic study does a detailed statistical analysis of the hard news and foreign news proportions, adding in survey data about levels of knowledge of current affairs issues amongst the public in all four countries. The conclusion is that,
Our results demonstrate that Americans are significantly less informed about public affairs than Europeans … [and] support the thesis that the American shortfall in knowledge is attributable in part to the distinctive information context in the United States [i.e. the lack of a public service broadcasting role comparable to that in the other countries]. American news media are driven to maximise audience share. Therefore, broadcast news programming is aimed at entertainment more than education. European media tend to cover hard news subjects more extensively and air news programming more frequently.
Source: Cross-National versus Individual-Level Differences in Political Information: A Media Systems Perspective by Shanto Iyengar, James Curran, Anker Brink Lund, Inka Salovaara-Mooring, Kyu S Hahn and Sharon Coen, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties [£], Vol.20, No.3, 291-309, August 2010.