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The media accountability of independent regulatory agencies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2011

Martino Maggetti*
Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Affolternstrasse 56, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland


Independent regulatory agencies (IRAs) are increasingly attracting academic and societal attention, as they represent the institutional cornerstone of the regulatory state and play a key role in policy-making. Besides the expected benefits in terms of credibility and efficiency, these regulators are said to bring about a ‘democratic deficit’, following their statutory separation from democratic institutions. Consequently, a ‘multi-pronged system of control’ is required. This article focuses on a specific component of this system, that is, the media. The goal is to determine whether media coverage of IRAs meets the necessary prerequisites to be considered a potential ‘accountability forum’ for regulators. The results of a comparison of two contrasted cases – the British and Swiss competition commissions – mostly support the expectations, because they show that media coverage of IRAs corresponds to that of the most relevant policy issues and follows the regulatory cycle. Furthermore, a systematic bias in media coverage can be excluded.

Research Article
Copyright © European Consortium for Political Research 2011

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