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Mediatized Bureaucracy? Investigating the Values and Norms of Civil Servants in Norway and the Netherlands

Media
Public Administration
Domestic Politics
Rune Karlsen
Universitetet i Oslo
Rune Karlsen
Universitetet i Oslo
Kristoffer Kolltveit
Universitetet i Oslo
Thomas Schillemans
University of Utrecht
Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud
Institute for Social Research
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Abstract

Professionalism, impartiality and loyalty are traditional values, meant to guide civil servants in public bureaucracies. Numerous studies have explored to what extent civil servants possess such values, and how they relate to a wider range of public values sets such as effectiveness, openness, and responsiveness (Beck Jørgensen & Bozeman 2007; Beck Jørgensen & Rutgers 2014). A key question is how some values come to the fore, while others are played down as a result of societal changes and administrative reforms. For instance, NPM reforms have emphasised values such as effectiveness and efficiency in public bureaucracies (Jørgensen 2006). In this paper we focus on how the growing influence of the media might influence civil servants’ value sets. Media influence is mostly studied in relation to electoral and party politics. However, public bureaucracies also receive massive media attention, and a recent strand of research focus on how media drive changes in organizational structures, task priorities, and internal resource allocation in both ministries and agencies (Deacon & Monk, 2001; Djerf-Pierre & Pierre, 2016; Fredriksson & Pallas, 2013; Maggetti, 2012; Pallas & Fredriksson, 2010; Schillemans, 2016; Thorbjørnsrud, Figenschou, & Ihlen, 2014). So far, few scholars have studied how the growing importance of the media might impact bureaucratic values. The few discussions of how communication practices can challenge bureaucratic values tend to focus on how civil servants loose integrity, impartiality, and trustworthiness when they are involved in branding and advertising of their political leaders (Aucoin, 2012; Mulgan, 2007). Media work is in other words seen as a dubious form of politicization where the vital distinction between public information and propaganda is blurred. We argue that more insight is needed, both about the importance of and whether other bureaucratic values have been suppressed, before we equate mediatization and politicization. Here, we investigate how media and communication practices influence the values and norms of civil servants by pursuing the following questions: How important are media considerations for civil servants, and do these considerations constitute a distinct bureaucratic media value? Second, to what extent are such values related to individual level factors like media related work and general attitudes towards the media, and organizational level factors like media attention? To investigate these questions we utilize a large-N survey sent to civil servants working ministries and agencies in Norway and the Netherlands in 2015/2016. The survey contains a wide variety of questions concerning civil servants’ fundamental values as well as media practices and general media attitudes. We find that media considerations are important for a substantial part of the civil service, and constitute a distinct bureaucratic media value. However, media values have not replaced traditional bureaucratic values like professionalism, legality and loyalty. Rather, all these norms and values co-exist and are closely related. As expected, media work and media views influence bureaucratic media values. However, the hypothesized relationships are clearer in agencies than ministries. In ministries, bureaucratic media values seem to be more evenly distributed across hierarchies, suggesting a stronger mediatization or politicization throughout these organization.