Tag Archives: media

Media attention for complex governance processes: does it matter?

Erik Hans Klijn
Erik Hans Klijn

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.

But the mediatization literature also suggests that the rules of the media logic (like the emphasis on drama, conflict and personal stories and the tendency to frame everything in short soundbites) penetrate other spheres of life (like the political domain, but also public administration). In our Policy & Politics article: Managing commercialised media attention in complex governance networks: positive and negative effects on network performance, we examine the impact of commercialised media attention and its positive and negative effects on network performance in complex governance networks. Since various authors point to the commercialisation of news as the main driver for this media logic we have labelled such attention “commercialised news” in our article.  Continue reading Media attention for complex governance processes: does it matter?

Thomas Schillemans on media and governance

by Thomas Schillemans & Jon Pierre

Thomas Schillemans talks about his special issue of Policy & Politics with Jon Pierre on media and governance published in January 2016 and why his topic is important.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also like to read Depoliticization, governance and the state by Matthew Flinders and Matt Wood.

The media and public accountability: mirror or spark?

Thomas Schillemans & Sandra Jacobs
Thomas Schillemans & Sandra Jacobs

by Thomas Schillemans and Sandra Jacobs

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 our Policy & Politics article entitled Media and public accountability: typology and exploration, we explore the ways in which mass media are involved in public accountability processes by looking at examples of public sector organisations in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

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?

The potential side-effects of mediatisation: a case study of the politics of German higher education

Andres Friedrichsmeier & Frank Marcinkowski
Andres Friedrichsmeier & Frank Marcinkowski

By Andres Friedrichsmeier & Frank Marcinkowski

Decision makers, be it in the field of higher education politics or in other fields of public policy making, typically claim to be processing a great deal of information. To a substantial degree, this includes news media information. Nonetheless, the same decision makers also pride themselves on basing their decisions on more reliable grounds than a vacillating media coverage. Almost two decades of public management reforms improved the availability of objective measurements and performance data, and introduced quasi markets to feed in public demands. Matching public expectations no longer necessitates resorting to news media and its representation of a public attention that is skewed by news values. Or is it the other way around? Is the influence of news media on decision making rather on the rise, resulting from an increasing reflexivity of public governance and a related need for direction that is no longer provided by the state? On the face of it, the significance of news media coverage is boosted by a new imperative of marketing the value of public sector outcomes. The need for public marketing results from the use of economic measures in public sector producing qualitative outputs that are difficult to attach a price tag to.

But these new imperatives of going public evaded focus in times of high hopes in the capability of management controls to objectify public sector governance. But they come with potential side-effects. An illustration of the kind of side-effects that are to be expected and of how to investigate them empirically is provided by Andres Friedrichsmeier and Frank Marcinkowski in their Policy & Politics article: The mediatisation of university governance: a theoretical and empirical exploration of some side effects. Continue reading The potential side-effects of mediatisation: a case study of the politics of German higher education

Setting the stage for another reform? Changing narratives around disability benefit recipients in the UK

Zach Morris
Zach Morris

by Zach Morris, School of Social Welfare, University of Berkeley, USA

The Department of Work and Pensions recently released the statistics for those who died after being found “fit for work,” and thus ineligible for disability benefits in the U.K. The Guardian reports that nearly 90 people a month are dying after being found fit for work. Caution is due, however, before interpreting the outcome of the assessment process as the cause of these deaths. Yet, the emergence of these figures and their wide reporting in the press shed light on how the public is coming to perceive the country’s recent experiment with disability benefit cuts. The growing attention to this issue could lead to increasing support for disability benefit recipients, which, as reported in my P&P article on the topic and shown below, has been in decline for many years. If so, now may prove an opportune time for political entrepreneurs Continue reading Setting the stage for another reform? Changing narratives around disability benefit recipients in the UK

Public leadership between ‘front’ and ‘back’ stage

Tessa Coombes
Tessa Coombes

by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P conference

In the afternoon plenary session on the first day of the Policy & Politics conference, Prof. Dr. Erik-Hans Klijn, Erasmus University Rotterdam, explored the tension between front stage (world of media and politics) and back stage (world of complex networks) using his own work to take us through the tensions that exist and how public managers can cope with those tensions. He reminded us that – modern governance is more about managing processes than anything else and there are no easy answers to complex governance problems.

Governance networks (back stage) were described as being characterised by complexity; complexity of decision-making and of resource dependency, with many different actors involved in activity where it takes time and dedication to achieve good performance. In this sense, it is managerial effort that makes the difference with modern governance more about management than politics and where hard work is needed because there are no easy solutions. Whilst this may well be true, I think there are many politicians out there who may just disagree with the comment about management!

In the world of politics and media (front stage), complexity comes from interaction and activity, with politicians reacting daily to events and constant media attention which is both short term and immediate. It’s a different world dominated by media logic, where branding and image are increasingly ‘centre-stage’ and used more frequently because people can relate to them.

These different worlds, operating together, generate a number of tensions:

  • complex multi-faced problems and solutions versus simple communications
  • connective leadership versus personalised strong profile
  • long-term oriented dedication versus short-term visibility
  • trust building versus conflict framing

Public managers therefore face huge challenges to combine ‘front’ and ‘back’ stage, where there is more focus on emotions, more use of branding and more network management. Erik-Hans concluded by emphasising that these tensions will remain and potentially increase, because the tendencies that fuel them will remain in place.

One of the interesting points I’ll take away from the discussion is definitely the one about branding, and how important this become in our society, but with a reminder that perhaps this should relate not just to ‘selling’ but also to identity, value processes and commitment.

Tessa Coombes has recently completed the MSc in Public Policy at Bristol University, is a former Bristol City Councillor and regularly blogs about policy, politics, and place.