First and second-level agenda-setting in the 2014 Indian general election: a time-series analysis of party-media relation

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The role of the press as a political watchdog is crucial to the functioning of democracy. Especially in the run-up to elections, voters depend on the media's presentation of parties and candidates to make informed, responsible choices at the ballot box. But who, then, influences the news media? Empirical evidence in the United States and Europe suggests that political party campaigns and election coverage in the news media are interconnected and influence each other. This study tests whether such agenda-setting effects between party campaigns and the media also take place in the general elections in the world's largest democracy, India. India's western-type political system has a distinct media system characterized by high competition, diversification, non-consolidation and formal and informal ties between the media, commercial interests and political actors. Content analysis and Granger's causality test of newspaper coverage (N = 716) and party campaign messages (N = 458) found that agenda-setting effects do occur in India, but are largely bi-directional. We also found an overwhelming focus of both newspapers’ election coverage and of all major party campaigns on one single candidate, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Narendra Modi. This, we argue, is a result of the broader trends that have shaped Indian politics in recent years. The significant correlations and non-significant causal effects between party campaign and media coverage also indicate a trade-off situation between political power negotiation and political balance in the press.

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Asian Journal of Communication

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