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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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5. Mediatization of organizational inputs

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The most important role of the media? “Representation of issues that are important to citizens and will take root in society.” “Create a space where public service policy and action can be examined and informed.” “Help disseminate the message when policies change and to gauge reactions to these changes.” The quotes above are some of the first associations of participants in focus groups when asked what the most important role of the media is. Roughly a third of the respondents referred to the media as a source of valuable information, thus as an input for their organization. The previous chapter described and sought to understand the media pressure on public service providers; this chapter will fo- cus on public service providers as news consumers. It will answer questions such as: How much news do participants digest, to what ends and with what means? We will look at the importance of media information for senior employees and executives in public service provision, the structures that accommodate media monitoring and the ways in which media information substitutes for other forms of information or amalgamates non-media activities with media activities. This will help us in the end to answer the question to what extent the informational inputs of public service providers have become mediatized. 5.1 ‘The pictures in our head’ Public service organizations operate in a complex social reality, constituted by social processes, economic developments, legal structures and politico-admi- nistrative turbulence. Strategic decision making within those organizations is predicated on various forms of...

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