Local Media and Politics in Germany

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Die Registrierung ist abgeschlossen, der Flug so gut wie gebucht. Im April geht es auf die 43rd Conference der UrbanAffairsAssociation (UAA) nach San Francisco. Dort präsentieren Frank Marcinkowski (Münster) und ich die Ergebnisse unseres Projekts „Medienkongruenz und demokratische Performanz“, in dem wir Effekte lokaler und regionaler Medienstrukturen auf die Politik auf Kreisebene untersucht haben.

Der Vortrag ist eine um neue Daten und Erkenntnisse erweiterte und selbstverständlich englische Neuauflage des Vortrags, den wir auf der 57. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft (DGPuK) in Berlin gehalten haben. Hier folgt das Abstract zu dem Vortrag, wie es auch im Book of Abstracts der UAA Conference abgedruckt wurde (S. 462). Eine deutschsprachige Version der Projektbeschreibung gibt es auf der Projektseite und im Book of Abstracts der DGPuK-Tagung (S. 14).

Local Media and Politics in Germany. Measuring the Effects of Press Coverage on Political Accountability in Municipalities (Abstract)

Our paper starts from the assumption, that an increasing incongruence between political and media spaces in local areas is challenging democratic accountability of local governance. This is true for nearly all western democracies with ‚liberal‘ (market‐driven) media systems. In most countries we observe, on the one hand, growing media markets, indicating consolidations in the media industry. On the other hand we have a permanent reorganization of the political geography, which does not necessarily entail an appropriate reorganization of the local media structure. Both trends may lead to a more selective media attention for local politics, an increasing information gap between the political system and its citizens, a growing ignorance of political jurisdictions and finally less political participation, which would be a central problem for democratic governance.

The common wisdom in political science as well as in media studies says, that high quality media coverage of politics is crucial for democracy. However, the empirical evidence for media contributions to democracy is still insufficient, especially at the local and regional level of politics. For this reason we investigate the relation of local press coverage and municipal politics in all 111 urban and 301 rural districts (‚Kreise‘) in Germany. The study is based on the a survey of Snyder and Strömberg (2010), who created an congruence indicator for the fit between newspaper markets and U.S. congressional districts. Their data indicate, that the congruence of media markets and electoral districts leads to more press coverage of the local congressmen, affects the political knowledge, interest and participation by the citizens and enhances the political accountability of the congressmen.

Our findings confirm the assumption of a positive correlation between the congruence indicator, local political participation and the political accountability by the responsible politicians. We demonstrate that the congruence of local press markets and the municipal geography affects the voter turnout in local elections and the performance of urban politics in several policy domains (e.g. public debts per capita, hospital facilities, elementary schools per capita and disposal facilities). In the paper we present those data in detail and discuss them from a democratic theory perspective.

References

Snyder, J. M. & Strömberg, D. (2010). Press Coverage and Political Accountability. Journal of Political Economy, 118(2), 335‐408.

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