Prior research on mass media and government accountability has not examined the effects of citizen media access on broad public services, such as education. At the same time, research has abstracted from the potentially influential role of mass media on parental investments in children's education. We address both issues using a “natural experiment” in radio access in Benin and find that school children's literacy rates are higher in villages exposed to a larger number of community radio stations. There is no evidence that this effect operates through greater government responsiveness. Instead, households with greater media access make larger private investments in their children's education.
From the conclusions
Among households with children, those that listen to more community radio because of their access to a larger number of community radio stations are more likely to buy books and to make informal or private tuition payments to schools. P. 42.And more from the conclusions
Community radio has unique attributes that enable it to provide information that influences household decision making with regard to education. On the one hand, these broadcasters, unlike the national radio station, are established to cater to the local audience. On the other hand, the scarcity of commercial advertising means that these radio stations have to sell their broadcasting time to ministries and donors interested in disseminating public interest programming, particularly on education and health. Because they play programming that people like, people are more likely to hear this public interest programming. Because stations cannot turn to commercial advertisers for financial support, they are more likely to broadcast this type of programming. P. 42.The authors mention that lack of independence is one problem when radios depend on government funding, but the data from the case in Benin does not allow them to determine how funding from the government affects independence.