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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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3. Mediatization and public services

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“I start work at 3.30 or 4.30 in the morning. My media report should be ready at 7 in the morning, so I am doing 4 AM-shifts just to manage the media and prepare for a morning briefing on 7 am. They want to know what the issues are; how to respond. They like to know what is being said.” (Director of Communications) The pressure from the news media on politics and public organizations has grown substantially over the last decades (Cook 2005; Elmelund-Præstekær et al 2011; Strömbäck 2011; Mazzoleni & Schulz 1999; Kepplinger 2002). It is the product of a myriad of social, political, economic and technological changes. The media landscape has been transformed by the advent of new technologies, such as digital and social media. Journalistic professional attitudes have changed pro- foundly and journalists have struck increasingly critical tones. There have also been significant changes in the economy of news making, due to commercializa- tion, concentration of media ownership and faltering sales of newspapers and advertisements. Simultaneously, politicians and political parties have had to learn to cope with ever more volatile voters in a context where public services and governments in general, have been subjected to severe criticism. The net effect of these seemingly disjointed trends has been that ‘handling’ the media has become an ever more important task for public service providers, particularly for the large organizations operating in politically salient domains. They have had to adapt their organizational structures and processes in order...

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