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Political Accountability and Reputation: The Relationship between Agency/Ministry Accountability and Perceived Media Relations in Norway

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Kristin Rubecksen
Universitetet i Bergen
Per Lægreid
Universitetet i Bergen
Lise H. Rykkja
Universitetet i Bergen
Kristin Rubecksen
Universitetet i Bergen

Per Lægreid, Kristin Rubecksen and Lise H. Rykkja

Public organizations are faced by a number of formal/vertical and informal/horizontal forums demanding accountability (Bovens 2007, Schillemans 2008). For an agency in the public sector, the parent ministry represents one such forum, while the media represents another. These different forums may influence each other, creating hybrid accountability relations. According to some scholars (Busuioc and Lodge, 2016) accountability is more about sustaining one’s own reputation vis-à-vis different audiences than about reducing information asymmetries and ensuring that agents stay committed to the original terms of their mandate. A growing body of literature also engages in the role of media in public accountability relations, showing that critical mass media are increasingly important in the life of public sector organizations.
This paper examines the relationship between agency/ministry accountability and perceived media relations in agencies. How do accountability relations towards the ministry influence perceptions of the importance of media relations? The dependent variable is how the administrative executives in central agencies perceive the role of media in the daily work of the agency. The proxies are questions about how important it is for them it to have a positive media coverage. The main independent variables are linked to the three phases of accountability in the agency/ministry relationship: information and reporting, discussion and debate and consequences and sanctions. We will also control for type of tasks and relations to external stakeholders.
The data base is a survey to administrative executives in Norwegian central agencies conducted in 2017. The data collection is ongoing, but so far we have responses from 72 agencies, response rate 42%.

Abstract for the workshop on “Accountability and Reputation”, ECPR Joint Sessions 2018 Nicosia. 10-14 April 2018

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