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The Influence of Ownership on the Valence of Media Content:
The Case of Movie Reviews




Gabriel Rossman
Working Paper #27, Updated November 2011

Abstract: Theories of political economy and resource-dependence imply that corporate
ownership of the mass media biases its content so as to further the corporation's interests in particular and capitalist hegemony in general. This study directly tests the former claim, which is suggestive about the latter. Previous studies have not disentangled the effect of ownership from other factors such as advertising or ideology. Furthermore previous studies have relied on content analysis, which introduces an element of measurement error. This paper shows that contrary to expectations derived from the literature, publications do not give especially generous reviews to films distributed by their corporate parents, suggesting that ownership may not be a major source of valence bias for particular corporate interests, nor perhaps, for corporate class interests either.

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