How the media influences public policy: a case study on the New Brunswick government's failed attempt to sell NB Power

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University of New Brunswick


Politicians, policymakers and journalists have witnessed a dramatic change in how they do their jobs in the last decade, particularly because of the growth of online and social media. Canadian public administration experts, particularly Donald Savoie, have observed significant changes to the policy-making process and specifically a shift toward governing from the centre. The media have been credited with gaining more influence on the policy process. Traditionally, agenda-setting research has explored how the media shapes the issue salience among citizens and how that affects politicians. But there has been less focus on how the media affects actual policy decisions. Using a case study methodology, this interdisciplinary study will explore the relevance of the governing from the centre model and how the newspaper, television and online media coverage influenced key political and policy decisions during the failed attempt by the New Brunswick government to sell NB Power between 2009 and 2010. An analysis using qualitative interviews with key politicians and policymakers during the NB Power process shows to what extent public policy and political decisions were made from the centre and how the media influenced policy and political decisions. The study raises questions about how future policy decisions should be made given demands for more public engagement and changing media consumption patterns.