In 1985, former Philip Morris chief executive Hamish Maxwell wrote the following in an internal memo: “A number of media proprietors that I have spoken to are sympathetic to our position – Rupert Murdoch [who was on the Philip Morris board at that time] and Malcolm Forbes are two good examples. The media like the money they make from our advertisements and they are an ally that we can and should exploit.” Another Philip Morris employee stated the following in the appendix of the same memo: “Murdoch’s papers rarely publish any anti-smoking articles these days.”
The idea that the media cater to corporations with media connections is Herman and Chomsky’s (1988) propaganda theory, which postulates that business connections between media and corporate world determines the type of news that is presented in news media. I exploit a novel dataset that allows me to infer the connections between the firm and the mass media: existence of insiders (Media Experts) on a firm’s board who have mass media experience at an owner/board member/editor/journalist level as a measure of the firm’s willingness to actively manage relation to media. I show that this indicator predicts future press coverage. Furthermore, I ...
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... on these firms, then reduced information availability would reduce coverage by newspapers regardless of any effort by media experts. To attempt to disentangle these effects, I instrument press coverage with the media experts’ ownership in firms. Since media experts will spend resources in lobbying the press only if they have some skin in the game, media expert's ownership can be considered a good measure of the exogenous component in news coverage. When I instrument coverage with this exogenous determinant, coverage’s estimated impact on illiquidity does not disappear. This suggests that relation between increased illiquidity and existence of media expert is causal.
The paper proceeds as follows. Section 2 describes background and hypothesis development. After discussing sample characteristics in section 3, I present the results in Section 4. Section 5 concludes.
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