Watergate and Television: An Economic Analysis.

by Stanley Besen, Bridger M. Mitchell


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It has been suggested that the total U.S. television audience is independent of the number and variety of programs available for viewing and that thus new sources of television programming will obtain their audiences from existing viewers rather than from the ranks of nonviewers. Because the televised coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings was first shown simultaneously by all three networks and then by the networks on a rotating basis, the audience data during this period of expanded programming choices are uniquely suited to testing theories of viewer choice. The data reveal a substantial increase in total viewing when the range of programming is increased. New sources of programming, such as that produced for public broadcasting and cable television, need not grow solely at the expense of audience for existing fare, but would be capable of expanding total viewing if they provide material sufficiently different from that now being broadcast. 40 pp.

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