Ethnic Media and the Mobilization of Identity

Comparative Political Studies


This paper studies the relationship between ethnic media, which produce content in a minority language, and the success of ethnic parties. I argue that, by embedding cultural traits in entertainment products, media outlets can shape the salience of group identity, which helps parties' mobilization efforts. I test this argument in the case of the Basque Country where, in the late phase of the Franco regime, an independent radio station operated by local clergy promoted the revival of regional language. Using contemporary, archival, and survey data, I show that exposure to ethnic radio increased support for new radical independentist parties and that the effect is driven by formerly Spanish-speaking municipalities with low historical support for Basque nationalism. I also show that radio increased bilingualism in subsequent generations and contributed to the bundling of ethnic identity revival and radical political ideology during the democratic transition.