“Karl Magnus Johansson makes a powerful argument that the media’s influence on institutions shapes and augments prime ministerial authority.”
—Alex Marland, author of Brand Command: Canadian Politics and Democracy in the Age of Message Control (2016)
“This book fills an important gap as it advances theoretical reflection and empirical understanding of how governments respond to volatile communication environments by reorganizing their functions to manage the demands of the media.”
—Barbara Pfetsch, author and editor of Political Communication Cultures in Europe: Attitudes of Political Actors and Journalists in Nine Countries (2014)
This book offers a systematic inquiry into how, why, and with what consequences media affects governments and the standing of prime ministers. It aims at an understanding of how media has caused institutional effects in government, as well as at advancing a unified theory of government communication. The author develops a logic of centralization and applies it to one case, Sweden. Government communication has been institutionalized, tightened and centralized with the prime minister and has changed irreversibly. Analysis of how the government communication system has evolved, mainly in its institutional structures, suggests that the shift to centralization arose more out of necessity than choice. For prime ministers most of this is about finding ways to ensure that the entire government respond to media uniformly. As governments face a set of functional demands from media, different kinds of media, uniformity has been a paramount objective. Nevertheless, this development involves shifting dynamics of intra-executive relations and a shift of power away from ministries to the prime minister’s office; the apex of political power. The prime minister has been empowered at the expense of ministers through the concentration of power and resources to the executive centre. That is partly because of media, which reinforces political hierarchies. That and the centralized control of government news in turn raises further questions about democratic governance and the nature of modern-day governing.
Karl Magnus Johansson is Affiliate Professor of Political Science at Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden.