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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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4. Media pressure on public service providers

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The most important role of the media? “Channeling public accountability of government / public administration. This is a vital role (for democracy)”. “Pointing out in an oversimplified way the “unfair” treatment by the service provider”. “Destructive”. The quotes above are some of the first associations participants in focus groups jotted down when asked to define the most important role of the news media for their organizations. Grossly a third of the respondents focused on the opportuni- ties the media offer organizations to bring their message across (see chapter 7), a further third of the respondents focused on the relationships of their organiza- tions via the media with their customers and the citizenry in general (see chapter 5, 6), and a final third of the respondents – some of their descriptions are depicted above – referred to a form of pressure that the media exert on the provision of public services. Some of those respondents, as the first one, described the media pressure in formal language and positive wordings. Some others, as in the last quotation, chose starker and more personal wordings. The responses seem to signal that pressure is the first association a number of people working for the providers of public services have. The process of mediatization refers to forms of organizational adaptation to media pressure. As such, media pressure is a necessary precondition for mediati- zation. This chapter aims to understand the media pressure on public organiza- tions. The chapter will first provide some details on the media coverage of...

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