October 2005

IZA DP No. 1802: Discrimination as a Competitive Device: The Case of Local Television News

published in: B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy: Contributions to Economic Analysis and Policy, 2008, 8(1)

Local news offers a unique look not only at customer preferences but also at the strategic response of firms to these preferences. This paper uses a combination of ratings data and newly gathered information on television stations in 25 U.S. markets to examine the decisions of competing firms and how customers respond to the journalists who appear on-air at the different stations in a market. The results indicate that there is a negative correlation between the racial, gender, and age composition of competing firms. Moreover, the ratings data suggest that the stations with relatively few blacks on-air are catering to the more discriminatory customers. While a similar result is found for age and gender, the reverse holds for other groups, suggesting possible tastes for diversity for Hispanics and Asians. Taken as a whole, the evidence supports a theoretical model in which firms differentiate via the characteristics of their employees in response to customer prejudice.