Media, politics and governance
Panel 10: Media, Politics and Governance
Chaired by: Rianne Dekker, MSc. (EUR), Lotte Melenhorst, MSc (UL)
Scholars in the fields of public administration, political science as well as communication science are studying the relationship between media, politics and governance. The increasing influence of the media on society in general and on the behavior of politicians and the functioning of political and administrative institutions specifically, is defined as a process of ‘mediatization’ (Strömback, 2008 ; Hajer, 2009). Being an important indicator of the public agenda and the public mood, media attention is known to play an important role in decision-making processes. Administrators and politicians’ responsiveness to media coverage is often considered to be important for enhancing democratic legitimacy. Vice versa, the media provide a means to increase transparency and indirectly accountability, by reporting on decision-making processes and policy outcomes. In addition, the media are actively used by political and administrative institutions as outlets to inform the general public, and sometimes to indirectly influence decision-making processes. In the latter case, communication via the media can be considered a political strategy.
The relationship between journalists and political actors is characterized by mutual dependence (Cook, 2005; Davis, 2009; Robinson, 2000). In order to unravel these interrelations, it is important to contextualize and distinguish between different media types (newspapers, radio, television, social media) and government actors (administrators, politicians, local/national/European stakeholders). In order to understand media influence on political and administrative processes, knowledge on the actual mechanisms at play is key. This allows one to answer questions like: when and why do journalists and governmental actors respond to each other? What instruments do they employ to do so? What are the consequences for the functioning of politics and the bureaucracy?
In this interdisciplinary panel we aim to bring together contributions from various scholarly fields, primarily from public administration, political science as well as communication science. Whilst research from these different disciplines oftentimes remains isolated, there are numerous overlaps and therefore we believe scholars can benefit from sharing and discussing their projects. Although this panel primarily focuses on the Dutch context, we also invite scholars who conduct comparative research that involves the Dutch case.
First, this panel aims to develop insights into the role of media in governance networks. Actors in governance networks around specific issues need to be responsive towards external information that is reported by the media. Media are also strategically used by stakeholders to influence negotiations. This changes power relations of the stakeholders in these networks (Korthagen, 2013). News management and PR strategies are becoming increasingly important (Cook, 2005). Strategic use of media can influence public management processes of collaboration and negotiation with stakeholders.
A second topic will be the interaction between media and politics. As the media have become omnipresent in everyday politics, politicians and journalists have become mutually independent (Walgrave and Van Aelst, 2006). There seems be a consensus among scholars that political institutions and the media are strongly intertwined, which led to an increased prominence of the media logic over the political and partisan logic. Today, also social media influence what issues politicians perceive as salient (Meraz, 2009). It is argued that social media represent citizen preferences in a real time, unfiltered and direct way. Whereas traditional media constitute a stable and well-known information landscape for policy makers, the social media landscape is rather new and versatile. There is still relatively little knowledge of how governments and politicians are using and responding to social media. We are happy to discuss agenda setting as well as agenda building studies, and are especially interested in studies that analyze how the (social) media, by paying (extensive) attention to an issue, influence political agendas (Cobb & Elder, 1983; Rogers & Dearing, 1988; Baumgartner & Jones,1993; Jones & Baumgartner, 2005).
Thirdly, we would like to discuss media influence on the policymaking process. There is little reason to assume media effects are non-existent after the political agenda has been set. Also public managers and policymakers have to cope with sudden media attention for their organizational actions and policy initiatives.
Media coverage influences the knowledge, perception or opinion of policy makers and political actors by paying attention to issues, and by the way in which these issues are framed (Eilders, 2000; Entman, 2004; Rein & Schön, 1993). This may either increase or decrease the democratic legitimacy of decision-making processes, as media effects on political outcomes may occur. Scholars analyzing media influence on policymaking processes often focus on the beginning of such processes (Cobb & Elder, 1981; Davis, 2007; Koch-Baumgarten & Voltmer, 2010), i.e. the agenda setting stage. Within this topic, we welcome contributions that study the role of media attention in further stages of decision-making, policy making, and legislative processes.
Type of papers (and topics) expected to be submitted
We invite empirical and conceptual contributions relating to the following research themes:
Media and governance
Media as stakeholders in governance networks, organizational adaptations in response to the role of the media, strategic use of media in negotiations.
Media and politics
Interdependence between political and journalistic actors, agenda setting and building, strategic media use by political or administrative actors.
Media and policymaking
Role of the media in (different stages of) the policy process, media effects on political output, media influence on decision making and legislation.
Description of linkage panel and subtheme NIG research programme (max. 400 words)
This panel links to Subtheme 3 of the NIG research programme: ‘Political institutions and democracy’. This research theme includes topics such as democratic representation, legitimacy and politics. Media are known as central bearers of the public sphere. As such they have an important task in maintaining legitimacy of government organizations. Via the (social) media, individual citizens, as well as representatives from civil society and institutional actors can communicate their ideas. This means the (social) media can function as important input for policy makers, politicians and governmental actors. Yet on the other hand, (perceived) media attention may be overvalued by these actors, and the necessity to make a selection out of the huge supply of media coverage may bias their ideas and knowledge. This means knowledge about the role of the media is important to analyze the quality of democracy and representation. On the other hand, the media are indisputably an important channel for the government, politics and the bureaucracy to communicate what they are doing to the public. As such studying the role of the media is relevant in terms of transparency and accountability as well.
Furthermore, this panel is the continuation of the panel 'Media and Governance' that was organized by Erik Hans Klijn and Iris Korthagen during the 2013 NIG conference. Last year’s panel focused mainly on what we now include under topic 1 ‘Media and governance’. We aim to build forward on the issues that were discussed during last year’s conference, yet broaden the scope of the research that will be considered in this panel.
Rianne Dekker MSc
PhD Candidate Public Administration
Department of Public Administration, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, room T17-53
Tel. +31 (0) 10 4081165
Lotte Melenhorst MSc
PhD Candidate Political Communication
Institute of Political Science, Leiden University
Pieter de la Courtgebouw, office 5.A.01
Tel. +31 (0)71 5278859