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Mediatization of Public Services

How Organizations Adapt to News Media

Thomas Schillemans

Public services are increasingly delivered by organizations operating at arms’ length of governments. These organizations occupy one third of the total news and spend huge sums of money on media management. This book provides the first comprehensive analysis of how public services are affected by their media environment. It describes how public service providers have become mediatized: have adapted their structures and processes to media pressure. The adaptation is profound; some managers use 25% of their time on media and others state that «from day one, how to get it through the media is on your mind». This normative issue of media influence is approached on the basis of extensive international research. At display is a collection of inside stories from the daily encounters between media and public service providers.

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2. Public services

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“… The clear set of governmental organizations and public service providers of the past has been supplanted by a host of independent agencies, hybrid public-private partnerships, vo- luntary agreements, ethical codes and gentlemen’s agreements (…) The result is that central government has been transformed into a multi-headed animal (…) Yesterday’s governmen- tal organization may well have turned into a private company by today or – even worse – in- to an entity somehow dangling in the middle.” (Vuijsje 2005: 29). The organization and management of public services has changed dramatically over the past decades. Where the former British Prime Minister Major, as dis- cussed in the previous chapter, spoke warmly of those changes and compared their combined impact to a silent revolution, the Dutch sociologist and publicist Vuijsje cast them in a rather dim light. He even went on to suggest that contem- porary public organizations are inclined to fission and mutation. Whatever the normative appreciation of those changes is, however, irrespective of the question whether we have been witnessing a revolution or a process of uncontrollable mutation, the underlying developments are beyond dispute. The waves of recent government reforms have created ever more complex systems of public service provision in most advanced democracies, where the boundaries between state, market and civil society have become increasingly blurred. Consider the employment services in the Netherlands. Employment services first became a governmental task in 1930 and remained, although with some major reshufflings and rearrangements in structures, organization and manage- ment, a system that was regulated and operated...

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