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Management structures and the mediatization of governmental agencies:

Translations and consequences

If we wish to understand the prerequisites for governmental agencies’ governance, organization and management, we cannot ignore the media. As the fourth estate, the media are expected to scrutinize the people in power and help the citizenry monitor these people and hold them accountable. But the importance of the media can also be tied to the mediatization of society, that is, the structural transformation that entails both the media’s development into an autonomous institution and the integration of media activities into other institutions’ activities.

The research on mediatization is extensive, and it has contributed significantly to our ability to understand how organizations – particularly political organizations – adapt to the media. Few, however, have shown any interest in governmental agencies. Moreover, previous research has tended to take a deterministic view of the consequences of mediatization, i.e., it has often assumed that it is the media that influence others and that these others have no ability to defend themselves. Another assumption, which would also seem to be inadequate, is that mediatization generally has the same effects on all types of organizations.

Based on other research examining how ideas and concepts are spread between and within organizations, we know that the influence that institutions have is seldom predictable. We also know that ideas and practices are often translated differently by different kinds of organizations. Accordingly, we can assume that the media, too, are understood and dealt with differently and that this, in turn, has different consequences for how the media affect government agencies’ activities. We can also assume that, within a given agency, different forms of activities will be affected in different ways and to different extents.

In this connection, it is relevant to ask in what way government agencies’ managerial form impacts on how media issues affect these authorities’ activities. In our survey of all national Swedish government agencies, we have been able to show clear correlations between authorities’ management structure and their degree of mediatization. Agencies led by a general-director (Swedish: enrådsmyndigheter) and those led by a board (Swedish: styrelsemyndigheter) are considerably more mediatized than those led by a committee (Swedish: nämndmyndigheter). These results hold even when we consider other factors that may conceivably be of great importance, for example the amount of attention a particular authority is given in the media.

The project – “Management structures and the mediatization of governmental: translations and consequences”– aims at describing and explaining what mediatization entails for government agencies, that is, how mediatization is translated, implemented and challenged when it encounters agencies’ activities, as well as what consequences these encounters have for how various activities are carried out.

The project consists of case studies on a selection of Swedish government agencies.

Investigators: Magnus Fredriksson (principal investigator) and Josef Pallas (Uppsala University)
Funding agency: The Swedish Research Council
Project period: 2015-2018

Page Manager: Mats Ekström|Last update: 4/19/2016

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