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Is there a bias towards elected actors in media coverage of policy-making in European metropolitan areas?


Hasler, Karin; Christmann, Anna; Kübler, Daniel; Marcinkowski, Frank (2013). Is there a bias towards elected actors in media coverage of policy-making in European metropolitan areas? In: ECPR General Conference - Panel 'The Role of the Media in New Modes of Governance', Bordeaux, 4 September 2013 - 7 September 2013.

Abstract

Metropolitan areas are a typical and increasingly discussed example for fragmented governance lacking clear accountability structures. While most of the literature has focused on the legitimacy of institutions and actors so far, we add a communicational dimension to democratic accountability. In this regard we argue that public accountability/ or accountability through the mass media has become a democratic standard that can be measured/ analyzed. Comparing two types of metropolitan governance in four countries, we test a theoretical and an empirical hypothesis regarding media’s ability to be a forum for public accountability. First, we argue that the media points out who is responsible for policy decisions in a way that mirrors governance structures. By pointing out who is responsible for policy making processes, public accountability reduces the complexity of network governance and actors can be held accountable. Second, however, we expect that the media are biased in focusing more on elected actors because due to their institutional/ political accountability they are more visible and thus easier to be held accountable. Analysing newspaper content data, we come to a mixed conclusion. While both elected and non-elected policy-actors are visible in the media, elected actors are more often attributed with responsibility and blamed than they are actually responsible. Unelected actors are not only outside of the chain of delegation in governance structures, they are also less in the focus of public control. Hence, although non-elected actors are less in the focus of public control, the mass media compensate their institutional lack of accountability by holding them accountable in public.

Abstract

Metropolitan areas are a typical and increasingly discussed example for fragmented governance lacking clear accountability structures. While most of the literature has focused on the legitimacy of institutions and actors so far, we add a communicational dimension to democratic accountability. In this regard we argue that public accountability/ or accountability through the mass media has become a democratic standard that can be measured/ analyzed. Comparing two types of metropolitan governance in four countries, we test a theoretical and an empirical hypothesis regarding media’s ability to be a forum for public accountability. First, we argue that the media points out who is responsible for policy decisions in a way that mirrors governance structures. By pointing out who is responsible for policy making processes, public accountability reduces the complexity of network governance and actors can be held accountable. Second, however, we expect that the media are biased in focusing more on elected actors because due to their institutional/ political accountability they are more visible and thus easier to be held accountable. Analysing newspaper content data, we come to a mixed conclusion. While both elected and non-elected policy-actors are visible in the media, elected actors are more often attributed with responsibility and blamed than they are actually responsible. Unelected actors are not only outside of the chain of delegation in governance structures, they are also less in the focus of public control. Hence, although non-elected actors are less in the focus of public control, the mass media compensate their institutional lack of accountability by holding them accountable in public.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper), not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Language:English
Event End Date:7 September 2013
Deposited On:30 Jan 2014 09:24
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:24
Publisher:ECPR General Conference
Related URLs:http://ecpr.eu/Events/EventDetails.aspx?EventID=5

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