Department of Economics

Economists count effect of TV coverage on terrorist attacks

Thu Jun 15 11:43:00 BST 2017

Dr Michael Jetter and Dr Kerry Papps at the lecture

— Dr Michael Jetter and Dr Kerry Papps at the lecture.


Dr Michael Jetter, Lecturer of Economics at University of Western Australia, spoke at the University’s Department of Economics on Monday 5 June on his latest paper ‘Terrorism and the Media: The Effect of US Television Coverage on Al-Qaeda Attacks’.  

Coming in the wake of the horrendous attacks in London, Dr Jetter’s paper looks at whether media coverage for a terrorist organisation encourages further attacks. It analyses the day-to-day news coverage for Al-Qaeda in the US post 9/11.

To isolate causality, Michael uses disaster deaths worldwide as an exogenous variation that crowds out Al-Qaeda coverage in an instrumental variable framework. The results suggest a positive and statistically powerful effect of CNN, NBC, CBS, and Fox News coverage on subsequent Al-Qaeda attacks. It suggests that one minute of Al-Qaeda coverage in a 30-minute news segment causes approximately one attack in the upcoming week, equivalent to 4.9 casualties, on average.

Commenting on his visit to Bath, Dr Jetter said: “It was a great opportunity to present in front of fellow colleagues from Bath and collect valuable feedback for this work in progress. It is unfortunate that the topic has become so timely again and I hope this and other works about the relationship between media coverage and terrorism can stimulate a discussion within the media as to how we can properly deal with the obvious dynamics.”

Event organiser from our Department of Economics, Dr Kerry Papps, added: “Michael’s rigorous work is a timely reminder of the dual responsibilities the media faces in keeping us informed but also not exposing us to further risk through excessive or sensationalist coverage of terrorist attacks.”

Listen to the talk