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Gavel-to-Gavel Congressional Television Coverage as Political Advertising: The Impact of C-SPAN on Legislative Sessions

Frank Mixon, David L Hobson and Kamal Upadhyaya ()

Economic Inquiry, 2001, vol. 39, issue 3, 351-64

Abstract: This article examines the effect of television on the length of legislative sessions at the federal level in the United States. Data from the U.S. Congress during the period 1972-96 are employed, during part of which time each house of Congress received significant television coverage by C-SPAN and C-SPAN2. Evidence from a Parks regression suggests that the presence of C-SPAN has increased House sessions by 88-250 hours and the presence of C-SPAN2 has increased Senate sessions by a striking 252-431 hours, other things constant. Additional estimates suggest that House sessions are about two minutes longer per bill introduced under the eye of C-SPAN, and Senate sessions are about four minutes longer per bill introduced in the presence of C-SPAN2. Longer sessions, which represent low-cost forms of advertising for incumbents, are not without costs to taxpayers. We estimate that these costs lie somewhere between $16 million and $392 million in real terms per session of Congress. Copyright 2001 by Oxford University Press.

Date: 2001
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