Here's an interesting new study in the European Journal of Communication that looks at television media systems in different nations and their role in what people know. Unfortunately the link for me leads only to the abstract and not the full article -- at least from home. I may try again next week from my office box.
The authors compared three systems: "public service" (Denmark and Finland), "dual" (UK), and a "market model" (U.S.).
According to the abstract, the "public service" model for TV boasts greater public affairs and international news, which leads to greater knowledge in those areas. All is well, in this model, including smaller differences among the advantage and disadvantaged -- in other words, a smaller "knowledge gap." It's a news Utopia, or you'd gather from the abstract.
The problem with relying only an abstract to understand a study? Lines like this: "But wider processes in society take precedence over the organization of the media in determining how much people know about public life." I'm not certain just what the hell that means, but it smacks of saying "we really couldn't statistically control for all the obvious factors that would explain differences across countries so what the heck, we wanted to publish this anyway." Actually, given the prestigious names on the study that's not gonna be the case, but I can't parse the wording based on just an abstract. Maybe next week I'll look at the piece in full, because it's rare you see system-wide studies of this sort. We need more, but they're difficult to do and even more difficult when you try to account for all the other differences in comparing some place like Denmark to the United States.