Media are everywhere nowadays and it is well known that politicians are very well aware of that and try to stage their performance to get as much media attention as possible. There are even authors who speak of modern democracy as the drama democracy where everything is about staging media attention and performance and not about implementation (eg Elchardus, 2002).
Are politicians different from rock stars?
As a result of the increasing mediatization of our society we now judge our politicians and public officials with the same standards as we judge our celebrities (rock stars, soccer players, TV personalities). Politicians appear on stage with wife and children, we want to know their private life and they appear as guests on talk shows. Research shows that media pay much more attention to private life of politicians than say for instance 30 years ago.
Many countries across the globe have seen an increasing involvement of non-state actors in public policies. Scholars have used the term of network governance to describe this phenomenon. In democracies, such networks pose challenges to the democratic legitimacy of public policies. How can citizens control non-state actors given that they cannot be held accountable via elections? Previous research on the topic has mostly focused on institutional aspects of ensuring democratic accountability of governance networks. Our recent Policy & Politics article entitled ‘Over-responsibilised and over-blamed: elected actors in media reporting on network governance’ shows that – beyond institutional mechanisms – the media play an important and independent role for holding policy actors accountable to the public, whether they are elected or not.
Empirically, we examine policy-making processes in big European city regions, where network governance is widespread and usually includes a wide array of policy actors. Are non-elected actors held accountable in the media as much as elected actors and do the media report adequately upon them? To verify these questions we examined 1200 news articles from 12 different newspapers in eight big cities in four European countries (Berlin, Stuttgart, Zurich, Berne, Birmingham, London, Paris and Lyon). We looked at the public accountability of different types of actors involved in governance networks: how visible are they in the media and to what extent are they held responsible for policy success or failure? We were interested whether the media simply informs the public or whether some actors are more interesting to the media than others (media logic). Continue reading Over-blamed and over-responsibilised: elected actors in network governance→
Policy & Politics sponsored an international symposium on Ambiguity and Crisis: Disasters, Governance and Social Risk in February 2016 convened by Editorial Advisory Board member Professor Nikolaos Zahariadis from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, US (pictured below) and Professor Tom Birkland from North Carolina State University, US. You can read more about it in their article below.
While ambiguity is a fact of public life, scholarship on its implications for public policy is not yet well developed. The gap is particularly deep during periods of crisis because of rapid and turbulent change and the lack of adequate information and limited information processing capacities. We have a good understanding of the strategic use of ambiguity but do not fully comprehend its implications for creating winners and losers in public policy.
On February 28, 2016, Tom Birkland and Nikolaos Zahariadis convened a two-day symposium on ambiguity and its effects during crises. The symposium explored the implications of ambiguity on policy making as conceptualized through the multiple streams approach (MSA) during man-made crises and natural disasters. The approach draws inspiration from March and Olsen’s garbage can model of organizational choice and John Kingdon’s agenda setting framework. MSA contends there is a “right” (and “wrong”) time to propose solutions to pressing public problems. The likelihood of any one idea becoming official government policy has as much to do with when Continue reading Policy & Politics event in the US: sponsored panel on Ambiguity and Crisis: Disasters, Governance and Social Risk→
The Commission is launching its report at a round table event at the Institute for Government on 3rd March 2016. The report offers some reflections on the process of decision making around the devolution deals to date. It draws on the shared learning and experiences of key actors involved to identify elements that have worked well and also potential areas for improvement. It concludes that the devolution agenda offers a real opportunity to empower local areas, boost economic productivity and improve public services. Yet, there is a danger that the initiative will falter in the absence of greater clarity around process and enhanced local ownership of decision making. Continue reading Devolution to English cities is not sustainable without greater transparency and legitimacy in decision making→
Europe currently faces the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Many European states are confronted with large numbers of migrants in need of immediate care, food and shelter. Responsible public agencies, such as the UK’s Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) in the Netherlands, face exceptionally complex challenges. A challenge that is aggravated by the fact that they are constantly criticized in the media and by politicians when things go wrong.
In the Netherlands, for instance, COA was blamed for concocting unpleasant surprises for local governments when the organization decided to immediately direct large numbers of asylum seekers to their municipalities. A Dutch mayor called the situation ‘chaotic’: “The COA lost control of the temporary housing of refugees”, he said. COA was held accountable and had to explain its behaviour to politicians and Continue reading The media and public accountability: mirror or spark?→
An invitation from the British Library to give the first in a new public lecture series called “Enduring Ideas” was never a request I was going to decline. But what “enduring idea” might I focus on and what exactly would I want to say that had not already been said about an important idea that warranted such reflection? The selected concept was “democracy” and the argument sought to set out and unravel a set of problems that could – either collectively or individually – be taken to explain the apparent rise in democratic disaffection.
Such is the world we live in that a lecture is no longer a lecture but rapidly becomes a multi-media “artefact” and the beginning of a global discussion. I suppose this is probably not quite true of all lectures, I’ve been to quite a few that really do need to be forgotten, but I’m pleased to say that the intellectual ecosystem seems to have exploded in all sorts of ways that I could never have imagined. Continue reading Social democracy after the Third Way: restoration or renewal?→