New Perspectives in Policy and Politics
First published as a special issue of Policy & Politics, this updated volume explores the intersections between governance and media in western democracies, which have undergone profound recent changes. Many governmental powers have been shifted toward a host of network parties such as NGOs, state enterprises, international organizations, autonomous agencies, and local governments. Governments have developed complex networks for service delivery and they have a strategic interest in the news media as an arena where their interests can be served and threatened. How do the media relate to and report on complex systems of government? How do the various governance actors respond to the media and what are the effects on their policies? This book considers the impact of media-related factors on governance, policy, public accountability and the attribution of blame for failures.
Public agencies are the objects of a large share of the daily news and devote substantial resources to media management and monitoring. This paper analyses how public agencies have adapted their internal structures and processes in order to meet the demands from their media environment. To this end, an analytical framework for the analysis of organisational mediatisation – the adaptation of internal structures and processes to external media demands – is developed. This is the first framework available for empirical analyses of organisational mediatisation. Its use is then demonstrated in a comparative analysis of the mediatisation of public agencies in Australia and the Netherlands; countries with contrasting political and media systems. An explorative, multimethod study describes how Australian agencies go to greater lengths in accommodating their media environment – they fight the media beast – whereas Dutch agencies are more hesitant; they are fumbling with the beast.
To understand contemporary governance, one needs to be cognisant of the manner in which media, and perhaps more generally, information, is used as a component of the process. The fundamental contention of the mediatisation literature is that institutions and organisations adapt to the pervasive role of the media, and this paper argues that the same is true for processes of governance. Thus, contemporary governance reflects the extent to which the formal and informal actors in governance have adapted their behaviours to the media environment within which they function. Whatever the goals of a government, they must pursue those goals within the environment shaped (in part) by mediatisation.
Despite the importance of the media and the considerable literature on media logic and the mediatisation of politicians, there is very little research on effects of – as conceptualised here – commercialised media attention on network performance. To address this lacuna, the article draws on a survey of project managers involved in complex spatial projects in the four largest cities in The Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague) and managers from two consultancy firms involved in similar projects (n=141). Quantitative analysis shows that perception of commercialised media attention has negative effects on network performance but that these effects are reduced considerably by network management activities.
First published as a special issue of Policy & Politics, this updated volume explores the intersections between governance and media in western democracies, which have undergone profound recent changes. Many governmental powers have been shifted toward a host of network parties such as NGOs, state enterprises, international organizations, autonomous agencies, and local governments. Governments have developed complex networks for service delivery and they have a strategic interest in the news media as an arena where their interests can be served and threatened.
How do the media relate to and report on complex systems of government? How do the various governance actors respond to the media and what are the effects on their policies? This book considers the impact of media-related factors on governance, policy, public accountability and the attribution of blame for failures.
The role of the media in public accountability has often been discussed. This is especially the case for public sector organisations, whose accountability relations have changed in the shift from government to governance. In this paper, we develop a typology of the ways mass media are involved in public accountability processes. Media can stimulate actors to reflect on their behaviour, trigger formal accountability by reporting on the behaviour of actors, amplify formal accountability as they report on it or act as an independent and informal accountability forum. To explore the presence of these roles in practice, we focus on public sector organisations in the Netherlands. Our quantitative and qualitative analysis in the Netherlands suggests that the media primarily serve an indirect role in public accountability, either by invoking pre-emptive self-criticism in public organisations in anticipation of potential media scrutiny or by triggering formal accountability demands from MPs
This paper analyses potential negative effects of mediatisation of university governance in Germany. Mediatisation reflects a change in expectations of how higher education institutions (HEI) should relate to the public. We explore two sets of developments that spawned this change of expectations. Firstly, the policy idea of a trend to a knowledge society affected what public contributions are expected of HEI. Secondly, reforms to decentralise HEI-governance compelled universities to orient themselves more directly towards demands of external stakeholder. Both developments reinforce each other, both are associated with extended needs for actor intermediation, and for consolidating means of orientation. Since performance figures and competition solely allow for a partial mapping of society’s demands and needs, HEI and state administrators can be expected to make additional use of public discourse to evaluate comparatively a multitude of demands and expectations. This results in what we call a model of mediatised university governance. Since media discourse on higher education is strongly biased towards news values, this type of governance has potentially unintended side effects. In the second part of the paper, two empirical illustrations are discussed. First, the role of media attention in accidentally reinforcing a reputational mismatch of teaching and research is investigated. Secondly, we focus on an overstretching of the information value of media-effective rankings for decision making. The cases draw upon survey data, semi-standardised expert-interviews and content analysis of news media coverage.
The article examines how local government officials in Sweden use social media and to what extent the emergence of social media has altered the relationship to conventional news media. The article examines the development of local government-media relations across time on the basis of a unique survey-based data set comparing the local political and administrative leadership’s media strategies in 1989 and 2010. The 2010 survey also included questions on how local officials in Sweden use social media in their work, that is, Facebook, Twitter and blogs. The results show that local officials have appropriated social media in their work, but only to a moderate extent. Local officials engage in social media if and when the local government becomes the target of social media scrutiny. Our study also demonstrates that social media have not replaced conventional media as a means of communication with constituencies. Indeed, officials who are active social media users have more contacts with conventional media compared to less active officials. Social media thus contribute to an intensification of the mediatisation of local governance rather than replacing conventional media in local political communication.
This article contributes to the study of democratic problems related to governance networks, by focusing on the role of the media. Two main rivalling hypotheses are examined. The functionalist hypothesis postulates that the media accurately inform the public about policy actors and their responsibilities, independent of these actors’ institutional status. The media-bias hypothesis postulates an attention bias towards elected policy actors, resulting in reduced public visibility of non-elected policy actors. The analysis uses standardised data on decision-making processes and newspaper content relating to public transport and economic promotion policies in eight western European metropolitan areas. Findings are that the actor mix of governance networks is quite accurately reflected in newspaper reporting. However, elected actors are more often presented as responsible for policies (‘over-responsibilised’), and they are more often blamed for policy failures than other actors (‘over-blamed’). The extent of this media bias depends on commercial pressure on media outlets. We also show that variations of this general pattern are linked to different types of media systems found across the cases under scrutiny.
Public administration research has focused on bureaucracies’responses to top-down pressures by elected politicians. By comparison, bureaucracies’ responses to bottom-up public pressures, such as media coverage and social protest, and the micro-mechanisms that underlie variation in their response, have received less attention. This study analyses the extent to which subjection to political control shapes direct response of bureaucracies to bottom-up public pressures. Based on current literature, we explore two distinct micro-mechanisms: firstly, building, inter alia, on principal–agent theory, we would expect higher levels of political control to render bureaucracies more attentive to public pressures in order to pre-empt intervention by politicians who are reliant on public support (principal–agent mechanism). Conversely, building on regulation theory, we would expect autonomous agencies to exhibit attentiveness to salient public pressures to compensate for their precarious democratic legitimacy (legitimacy-deficit mechanism). Empirically, we analyse the responses of a diverse set of 36 bureaucracies to unprecedented social protests taking place in Israel during 2011. We focus on bureaucracies’, including independent agencies’, symbolic responses via advertising campaigns. Our analysis shows that higher levels of political control enhanced the inclination of bureaucracies to engage in symbolic interactions in response to social protests, supporting our extended version of the principal–agent model.