Fans of light entertainment may be more populist. At least, that’s the finding of a study recently published in the : economists studying the rise of Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire found a curious correlation between light entertainment consumption and support for populist parties in Italy. Areas of the country with earlier (and superior) access to the ex-Italian president’s media network (Mediaset) appear to have been more likely to vote for his (more populist) political party, Forza Italia.
First, some background. Italian law on television broadcasting used to be extremely strict, even banning private channels until 1976 when they were permitted but only on a local level. Berlusconi launched Canale 5 in 1980, expanding his network to include Italia 1 and Rete 4 by 1984. Eventually, these three channels became Mediaset.
By 1985, Mediaset was available to roughly