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Testing the Knowledge Gap: A Comparison of Traditional Media and Internet in Finland and Spain

Marta Fraile
Universidad Autònoma de Madrid – Instituto de Políticas y Bienes Públicos del CSIC
Marta Fraile
Universidad Autònoma de Madrid – Instituto de Políticas y Bienes Públicos del CSIC
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper studies the role of media in reducing or increasing the knowledge gap in two very different media systems: a public service model (Finland) and a dual system model (Spain). In doing so, it distinguishes between traditional news media (newspapers and television), and on line news media (that is, the Internet) and control by the usual determinants of political knowledge (abilities, motivations, and opportunities). The paper analyses the following research questions: Do media inform all citizens equally? Is political learning from news media moderated by socioeconomic differences between citizens? Are there differences by the media source? Whereas there is an important body of research focused on newspapers and television, the case of the Internet is still understudied, and very few studies make an explicit comparison of traditional media versus the Internet. This is the main contribution of the present paper. There are important differences in the regulation and characteristics of the two media systems analysed in the paper. They, in turn, can potentially produce a high degree of diversity in the amount and quality of information provided to the public by the media. These differences might reflect a diverse effect of media on what citizens know about politics. Comparing these two countries allow us not only to test the same hypotheses twice but also to check for systematic differences between the two media systems. This constitutes an additional contribution of the present study in comparison to previous literature very much focused on a single case study.