On the Minister’s Tight Leash? Media Appearance and Autonomy in Public Agencies

Kristoffer Kolltveit



Public agencies have varying degrees of self-determination. In the existing literature this autonomy is often explained by sector and task. Although agencies are increasingly subject to media scrutiny and public attention, the literature on the autonomy of agencies has not focused much on the impact of the media. Visible agencies might be more able to resist the control of superior bodies. However, reputational threats and poor media management might tempt ministers to increase political control and decrease the autonomy of agencies, or in other words, tighten the leash. Drawing on a 2016 survey of civil servants in Norwegian agencies, this article investigates four aspects of agency autonomy, and relates this to media appearance and media management in the organisation. The results show that agencies frequently in the written press report lower levels of autonomy, while agencies with competent media management have higher levels of autonomy. This suggests that media appearance and media management should be seen as important factors when aiming to explain agency autonomy.


Keywords: public agencies, autonom, control, media, ministers

Full Text: PDF

Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413