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The Personalisation of German Government Communication as Mediatisation

Isabelle Borucki
University of Duisburg-Essen
Isabelle Borucki
University of Duisburg-Essen
Open Panel

Abstract

Is Government Communication personalised? The exemplary analysis of the German government communication (see Pfetsch 2008) will serve as a basis to demonstrate that mediatization and therefore personalisation as a sub-process can be conceptualized as a dynamic meta-process which enables one to “assess [its] degree across time, countries, or other units of analysis” (Strömbäck, 2008, p. 235, see also Krotz, 2009). The advantage of this approach is the possibility of tracing certain developments, contrary to the concept of mediation which has to be regarded as static (Strömbäck & Esser, 2009, p. 208). The research-object of this contribution is the German Bundesregierung. The aim of the paper is to show how the communication management actors of the German government cope with mediatisation effects and how news management has been focused on the German chancellor and other political leaders during the last three decades. First of all, this research focuses on the actors involved (journalists, government and ministry spokespersons) and their comprehension of how mediatisation and its sub-processes like personalisation or professionalization has transformed the communicative processes in the German Bundesregierung (Holtz-Bacha 2004a,b). Secondly, the objective is to explain how government communication has changed in its internal procedures and if this change could be described as personalised or mediatised politics. Lastly, it needs to be analysed if the change in government communication at the procedural level does have any influence on the communication of leading politicians regarding their ambition to communicate decisions of the Federal Government, thereby legitimizing them in the process and ensuring the preservation of power. All these questions are embedded in a longitudinal empirical case-study which is set on the micro-meso-level. Due to the exploratory nature of the study, the focus lies on qualitative data which will be analyzed by using an approach within the framework of qualitative content analysis. This will be supplemented by a discourse analysis. Part of this mix of methods are a primary source analysis, a web-survey as well as 35 semi-structured expert interviews with government spokespersons and correspondents based in Berlin and PR consultants. Based on this, one can conduct the reconstruction and explanatory interpretation of central personalisation-mechanisms of government communication in order to emphasise the thesis that government communication is personalised communication, too. Holtz-Bacha, Christina (2004a): Germany: How the private life of politicians got into the media. In: Parliamentary Affairs 57, S. 41–52. Holtz-Bacha, Christina (2004b): Germany: The "German Model" and Its Intricacies. In: Juliet Roper, Christina Holtz-Bacha und Gianpietro Mazzoleni (Hg.): The politics of representation. Election campaigning and proportional representation. New York, NY: Lang (Frontiers in political communication, 5), S. 9–27. Krotz, Friedrich (2009): Mediatization: A Concept with which to grasp media and societal Change. In: Knut Lundby (Hg.): Mediatization. Concept, changes, consequences. New York, NY: Lang, S. 21–40. Pfetsch, Barbara (2008): Government News Management: Institutional Approaches and Strategies in Three Western Democracies Reconsidered. In: Doris A. Graber, Denis McQuail und Pippa Norris (Hg.): The politics of news, the news of politics. 2. ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press, S. 71–97. Strömbäck, Jesper (2008): Four Phases of Mediatization: An Analysis of the mediatization of Politics. In: The International Journal of Press/Politics 13 (3). Online verfügbar unter http://hij.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/3/228, zuletzt geprüft am 25.5.2010. Strömbäck, Jesper; Esser, Frank (2009): Shaping Politics: Mediatization and Media Interventionism. In: Knut Lundby (Hg.): Mediatization. Concept, changes, consequences. New York, NY: Lang, S. 205–223.