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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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7. Mediatization of Organizational Outputs


“Control function’ and increased recognition of our organization.” “Education of community about services and expectation management.” “Supporting strategy and brand outcomes (goals).” “Keep public informed / encourage open debate / independent scrutiny of outcomes policy.” Above are some of the first observations that participants in focus groups sub- mitted to paper when asked to describe the most important function of the media for their organization. About a third of the respondents, some of them are quoted above, mentioned functions of the media that directly referred to the outputs of the organization, such as the delivery of services or general organizational strate- gy. Interestingly, as is noticeable in the quotations above, those respondents were for some reason or another unable to mention just one function of the media, even though they were asked to do so. These respondents generally felt inclined to collate a number of distinct but evidently indistinguishable roles the media played for them. This suggests that organizational exchanges with the media always have a complex and layered character: they serve (selfish) strategic aims for the person and the organization and (noble) causes of service delivery to the people. The media are instrumental tools that organizations may choose to util- ize, and thus try to control, while they are simultaneously institutions of their own that defy outside control by service providers (or others). This multifaceted character of the media – at the same time associated with deeply selfish and highly noble behavior; a greatly used practical instrument that nevertheless al-...

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