by Awa Ambra Seck
Do mass media affect protests? And how? I address these questions studying racial protests in the United States between 1954 and 1970. I first exploit the exogenous variation in timing of television introduction caused the Federal Communications Commission "freeze" in order to estimate the causal effect of TV on protest outbreak. I then complement the analysis with variation in over-the-air signal strength due to topography and climate, as additional source of exogeneity. I find a positive and significant effect of TV on the probability of protest outbreak and on the likelihood that protest is initiated by African Americans. Finally, I extend the analysis disentangling the channels through which television has influenced demonstrations. I find that TV served as a mean to overcome a collective action problem but also that African American role models depicted in TV series are likely to have influenced demonstrators’ ambitions.