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5 Unofficial Actors and their

Role in the Policy Process
Avinash Samal

The policy studies scholars have divided the players in the policy process
into two main categories such as official and unofficial actors. Official actors
are those involved in public policy by virtue of their statutory or
constitutional responsibilities and have the power to make and enforce
policies. This does not preclude the possibility of these people being
influenced by others, like political party bosses or other interest/pressure
groups. The actors belonging to legislature, executive (including
bureaucracy), judiciary and regulatory agencies are clearly the official

Besides the official actors, there are many other groups and
organizations which do participate in the policy-making process. These
actors are called unofficial because their participation in the policy process
is not a function of their duties under the Constitution or the law. This is not
to say that these actors have no rights or standing to participate in the
process. Rather, it means that their mode of participation in policy
formulation is not specified in law. On the other hand, it has evolved and
grown as the nation has evolved and grown. So the unofficial actors refer to
those who play a role in the policy process without any explicit legal
authority to participate, aside from the usual rights of participation in a
democracy. These groups include the interest/pressure groups of various
types, political parties, individual citizens, research organizations and think
tanks, and the mass media. They considerably influence policy formulation
without possessing legal authority to make binding policy decisions. While
the previous chapter focused on the role of official actors (legislature,
executive and judiciary) in policy formulation, the present chapter discusses
in detail the role of unofficial actors in the policy process.

Interest Groups


Well-organized and active groups naturally have more influence than groups whose potential membership is poorly organized and inarticulate. The other resources possessed by interest or pressure groups are organizational and political. The main function of these groups is to express demands and present alternatives for policy action. 2 . They also campaign for and deliver votes to sympathetic candidates who they think would support their cause in the government. the realities of modern politics enable groups formed specifically to promote the interests or positions of specialized social groups to play a significant role in the policy process. their propensity to associate with other similar groups also works as a powerful influential factor. The members of specialized groups often know a great deal about their area of concern. All other things being equal. A coherent peak association may be expected to be more influential than those interest groups operating individually.At the societal level. Bureaucrats similarly often need these groups’ help in developing and implementing many policies (Baumgartner and Leech 1998). interest or pressure groups play a significant role in the policy-making in many countries. interest groups’ political impacts on the formulation and implementation of public policies vary considerably according to their access to differing levels of organizational resources. and particularly of the executive and bureaucracy. interest groups differ tremendously in terms of size of membership. Often there are several groups with conflicting desires on a particular policy issue. The possession of specific information that may be unavailable or less available to others constitutes a very important advantage for them. Some groups often form a ‘peak association’ consisting of representatives from other groups with similar interests. Government and opposition parties at times curry favour with such groups to secure the information required for effective policy-making or for attacking their opponents. those with information may normally expect to play an important role than the other. While policy-making is a preserve of the government. Since policy-making is a highly information-intensive process. First. and policy makers are faced with the problem of having to choose between conflicting demands. The primary concern of a pressure group is to influence policy in a particular manner. larger groups can be expected to be taken more seriously by the government. Special interest groups often make financial contributions to the campaign chests of sympathetic political parties and politicians. Politicians and bureaucrats often find the information provided by interest groups indispensable for performing their tasks. However. One of the most important resources that differentiates such actors from others is the specific knowledge they have at their disposal. They may also supply the official lawmakers with much technical information for and against a specific issue and possible consequences of a policy proposal. Second.

the mere existence of a group does not necessary suggest that it will have any voice in policy making. Rapid socio-economic and technological changes. developed or developing. While the exact impact of interest group campaign expenditures on government policy is contentious. Groups that represent powerful or privileged interests are partly responsible for Americans’ suspicion of interest groups or. Third. other groups simply do not have it. while many groups are local and deal with local issues. as they are often called. some groups are well funded which enables them to hire permanent specialized staff and influence parties and candidates during elections. coupled with transportation and communications capabilities unimagined in the past. ‘special interest groups’. Given the plural character of USA or Indian society. whose members have 3 . UK and India than they are in the Soviet Union or China. The strength and legitimacy of groups also differs from country to country. With freedom of association and speech guaranteed by the Constitution. their influence and effectiveness also depends on other resources like cohesiveness. While this does not guarantee that their interests will be accommodated. there is no doubt that differences in financial resources matter and that in democratic political systems the information and power resources of interest groups make them key members of policy subsystems. social status and attitudes of the policy makers on specific policy issues. While some groups. While mobilization and group development are not greatly constrained in our political system. Grassroots organizations form nearly daily to pursue myriad goals. some groups call themselves ‘public interest groups’ to signal that they view their mission as a counterweight to these ‘special’ interests. many interest groups and popular movements cannot be confined to small states or communities. particularly those representing concentrated economic and business interests. it is not surprising that pressure groups are many and varied in number. the number of interest groups has rapidly expanded since the 1960s. leadership skills. In fact. In fact. interests. has made it possible for large many groups to mobilize quickly on a regional or national scale. depending upon whether they are democratic or dictatorial. they are unlikely to be entirely ignored except in rare circumstances when executive makes a high-level and deliberate decision to go ahead with a policy despite opposition from concerned groups. such as halting the construction of multipurpose dams across rivers to banning the screening of some of the movies in the theatre halls. have considerably more power. Types of Interests Groups There are many ways to categorize interest groups. One can distinguish between an institutional interest group. and a membership group. Today. size. neither US nor India place any legal burden in the path of those who wish to mobilize and form an interest group. organization and style of operation. whose members belong to a particular institution. Fourth. Interest groups are found to be more numerous in the USA.

the union seeks to promote cohesion and to encourage others to join the union. a cleaner environment without providing such benefits to others. such as journals and continuing education. If one happens to be a student at a university. as mentioned earlier. While they provide important benefits and services to their members. In economic terms. are clearly economic groups. One can also categorize interest groups as economic or private interest groups versus public interest groups. Economic groups. one can consider professional and trade associations to be economic associations. work to provide wage and benefit agreements that benefit only the members of the union. or national political support. As a rule. These tend to be small groups in terms of the actual numbers of members. not simply their members. on the other hand. seek to overcome the free-rider problem by creating benefits only for the members of their groups. such as affordable tuition fee and quality education. If one joins the NCC or a Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). and the National Automobile Dealers Association. people join because they gain some benefit. in the broader public interest – there is also a more technical way to distinguish between the two. directly or indirectly. it is easier for economic groups to do so because their members have their 4 . The challenge for public interest groups is to make clear what those benefits are in order to attract and keep members. While public interest groups would like more people to join their causes. They play an active role in the education and licensing of doctors and lawyers. such as environmental groups. Industry groups. he or she becomes part of a membership group because he or has chosen to join the same deliberately. Common Cause. While the difference between the two is sometimes rhetorical – almost every group believes it is acting. he or she is a member of an institutional interest group – university students union – because he or she shares some interests with the fellow students. it is difficult to allow only public interest group members to reap the benefits of.chosen to join. thereby seeking to keep the size of the profession relatively fixed. For example. regional. Groups such as the Indian Medical Association and the Bar Council of India seek to promote and protect the professional and economic interests of doctors and lawyers. By restricting benefits in this way. such as FICCI. the National Association of Manufacturers. seek to create broad benefits for the entire society. we can say that non-members of public interest groups are free riders who benefit from the work of the group without contributing resources such as labour or money. Finally. Indeed. particularly in ‘closed shop’ states where all workers must pay dues to the union. say. they also seek to protect the economic interests of their members. In both public interest and economic groups. Public interest groups. labour unions. When their interests are threatened. and the like. but are powerful because of what these groups are: collections of powerful economic interests that often enjoy considerable local. they lobby elected and appointed officials for its redress. a social movement may result. when many such people are mobilized. and. they also know that non-members constitute a potential force of supporters.

during times of social upheaval and crisis or when issues of morality and values are paramount. has contributed tremendously to the power of capital in recent decades. Business Associations Among the various types of interest groups. These benefits seem trivial. As pointed out by both neo-pluralist and corporatist theorists. but they help to attract new members and promote group cohesion.economic security at stake. Most public interest groups make an appeal to people’s desire to do good. business is generally the most powerful. sometimes. Finally. Still. This can lead political 5 . The financial contributions that businesses make to political parties also afford them an important resource for influencing policy-makers. These groups range from the mainstream churches to the more ‘fundamentalist’ churches. Because of their potential to affect state revenues negatively. their mission is to promote their religious. to any unwanted government action by moving capital to another location. etc. Elections can sometimes turn on relatively short-term issues and personalities. augmenting it by material benefits like discounted nature tours. political parties supported by contributions from business are in a better position to run such campaigns and thus influence voting behaviour. the organization of business and labour is often seen as the most significant factor in determining a state’s policy capabilities. at least briefly. In particular. It is possible for investors and managers to respond. due to improvements in modem means of communication and transportation and the gradual removal of controls on international economic transactions. with an unmatched capacity to affect public policy. which is. and ideological values among their members and. This is because of the vital role each plays in the production process. it is important to note that some groups do not fit neatly into the public interest-economic dichotomy. The increasing globalization of production and financial activities. and from the politically moderate to the politically extreme on both ends of the ideological spectrum. and the benefits are then more tangible. if they so wish. on the other hand. a fundamental activity that has effects far beyond the economy. the United States contains many religious and ideological groups that come together without being based on economics or a broader public interest mission. glossy magazines. in every society. calendars. moral. must appeal to other motivations than economics. which necessitate large budgets to influence voters through extensive media advertising campaigns. In such situations. they are not as powerful as economic inducements in promoting group unity. capitalists – both domestic as well as foreign – have the ability to ‘punish’ the state for any action it might take of which they disapprove (Hayes 1978). Public interest groups. Such groups can become important players in the policy process. Rather. in the broader society. Although this theoretical mobility is limited by a variety of factors – including the availability of suitable investment opportunities in other countries – the potential loss of employment and revenues is a threat with which the state must contend in making decisions.

which is their primary function. though not so powerful as business. fall closer to the Japanese model (Katzenstein 1977). Other European countries. Second. Fourth. Although the example of Japan cited above is somewhat typical. without incurring serious opposition from its rank and file.parties and candidates running for office to accommodate business interests more than they would for those of the other groups. then it can delegate some business-related responsibilities to the business association itself. Similarly. to have its voice heard in the policy subsystem. It usually takes the form of a peak association (a sort of federation of associations) with the authority to impose sanctions and discipline among its members. such as France. has an important bearing on the extent and nature of business involvement in politics. too. Spain. The organizations and individuals receiving funds tend to be sympathetic towards business interests and can provide business with the intellectual wherewithal often required to prevail in policy debates (McGann and Weaver 1999. Unlike business. A strong state may also nurture a strong business association in order to avoid the problems arising from too many groups making conflicting demands on the same issue. In countries such as the US and Canada with cultures highly supportive of business. Third. Moreover. it is difficult for the disparate elements to organize and devise a common position. corporations have seen few reasons to organize. the stronger will be the business influence. and Sweden. which enjoys considerable weight with policy-makers even at the individual level of the firm. persistent challenges from trade unions or socialist parties. The stronger the unions. Austria. the US is regarded as having the weakest business organizations in the industrialized world and Japan the strongest. Labour Groups Labour. if the state is confident of the strength of the business association. In addition to bargaining with employers on behalf of their members’ wages and working conditions. the organizational strength of business is affected by the structure of the economy. 6 . business is often strongly organized if it has been confronted with strong. In national economies characterized by low industrial concentration or high levels of foreign ownership. The strength or weakness of business and the varying patterns of government-industry relations found in a country are usually shaped by a range of historical factors. i. The existence of strong business associations simplifies the government’s job by aggregating their demands within the organization. the financial contributions that businesses often make to public policy research institutions and individual researchers serve to further entrench their power. political culture. A strong business organization is able to adopt a bold position if necessary and convey it to the government.e. Generally speaking. countries with strong states often have strong business organizations because in order to pressure strong governments business itself must be well organized. labour needs a collective organization. too. a trade union. with countries like Britain or Canada falling closer to the US model. occupies a powerful position among social groups. Germany. Abelson 1999).

which eventually formed governments in many countries. A union movement fragmented along any or all of possible regional. to realize its policy potential labour needs a central organization. or import-competing versus export-oriented lines will also experience difficulties in influencing the policy process. the more successful it is likely to be. it was sometimes easier for them to pressure the government to meet their needs than to bargain with their employers. to have a say in the functioning of the government. the most important determinant of labour’s capacity to influence the policy process and its outcomes is its own internal organization. Finally. foreign versus domestic. the trade union needs to enjoy comprehensive membership and have the organizational capacity to deal with conflicts among its members and maintain unity. have decentralized bargaining structures. and the American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Austria. for example. However. where the state encourages the formation and maintenance of 7 . who form a majority in every industrialized society. such as the Australian or British Trade Union Congress (TUC). in Austria and the Netherlands. Since collective action is the only tool through which labour can influence the employers’ or the government’s behaviour. religious. or industrial versus craft. further reinforced labour’s political power (Qualter 1985). The nature and effectiveness of trade unions’ participation in the policy process depend on a variety of institutional and contextual factors. the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). ethnic. and the Scandinavian countries bargaining takes place at the industry or even countrywide level (Esping-Andersen and Korpi 1984. Given the voting clout afforded to them in a unions engage in political activities to shape government policies affecting them (Taylor 1989). The origin of the role of the trade unions in the public policy process is rooted in late nineteenth-century democratization. Britain. Weak businesses can also inhibit the emergence of a powerful trade union organization because the need for it is less immediate. All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC). Fragmentation among labour ranks tends to promote local and sporadic industrial strife and incoherent articulation of labour’s interest in the policy process (Lacroix 1986). and the United States. Canada. The creation of labour or social democratic parties. linguistic. which enabled workers. even more than does business. Trade Unions’ role in the policy process tends to be the highest in corporatist political systems such as the ones in Scandinavian countries. A weak and fragmented state will not be able to secure effective participation by unions because the latter would see little certainty that the government would be able to keep its side in any bargain. The same is true for the structure of bargaining units: decentralized collective bargaining promotes a fragmented system of articulation of labour demands. whereas in Australia. The level of union membership affects the extent to which states seek or even accept union participation in the policy process. Hibbs 1987). the more united a front it is able to put up. The structure of the state itself is an important determinant of trade union participation in the policy process. To be effective.

the legislature. Generally. the fact that members of Legislatures often vote in accordance with their party policy. i. there is a multiparty system.e. In parliamentary democracies. they seek to convert the particular demands of interest groups into general policy alternatives. Indeed. Though they are not directly represented in the policy subsystem. it is not uncommon for party members in government to ignore their official party platform while designing policies (Thomson 2001).strong trade unions. most of the governments make policies according to the policy manifestos on which they have been elected to office. which is the chief official policy maker. The regional parties. The idea that political parties play a major role in the public policy process. Political parties tend to influence public policy indirectly. though in the modern era this usually has been only indirectly. where it does not. Political Parties Political parties are an intermediating actor existing on the margins or border between state and societal actors. In modem societies. they act more as brokers than as advocates of particular interests in policy formation. which only differ in stress rather than in content since their common desire is to extend their electoral base as wide as possible. are more sectarian in their approach since they desire mainly to woo a particular regional segment of the population. Needless to say. Hence. In presidential systems like the United States. political parties generally perform the function of ‘interest aggregation’. and the lowest in pluralist political systems such as the United States and Canada. primarily through their role in staffing the executive and. the political party that has a majority of votes in parliament forms the government. to a lesser degree. Most of the national parties have manifestos. In India. the party that controls the Congress exercises significant influence on policy matters. The way in which parties ‘aggregate’ interests is affected by the number of parties. parties may do less aggregating and act as the representatives of fairly narrow sets of interests as appears to be the case in France. In one-party systems like the Soviet Union and China. They have a significant impact on public policy. In predominantly biparty systems such as the United States and Great Britain. the desire of the parties to gain widespread electoral support will force both parties to include in their policy proposals popular demands and avoid alienating the most important social groups. In multiparty systems. While vote-seeking political parties and candidates attempt to offer packages of policies they hope will appeal to 8 . on the other hand. of course. they are the chief official framers of public policy. with half a dozen national parties and regional parties of twice the number. the party to which they are affiliated may influence many of the actors in the subsystem. stems from their undeniable influence on elections and electoral outcomes in democratic states. however. once in office. political parties have a broader range of policy concerns than interest groups.

including those related to the staffing of the senior public service.” While their direct influence may be muted. so too proponents of change face the need to modify their demands. by affected pressure groups. in fact. they cannot control its evolution past that point. Their role in policy implementation is virtually nil. Howlett 1997). Various rules set out not only the decisions that can be made by government agencies or officials. The role played by political parties in staffing political executives and legislatures. or that any such influence may be waning. but it cannot ensure the direction it will lead. Just as defenders of the status quo may find it difficult to defend their position without adapting it. In modem governments. or at least grudging acceptance. As Richard Rose (1980: 153) puts it: “A party can create a movement on a given issue. as Richard Rose argued almost a quarter century ago in the case of Britain: 9 . their indirect influence is not. Finally. The official agenda of governments is. allows them considerable influence on the content of policy decisions taken by those individuals. dominated by routine or institutionalized agenda-setting opportunities rather than by partisan political activity (Kingdon 1984. as we have seen. They will also be important in securing support. Modifications are necessary to secure the agreement of diverse interests within a party. as they play a stronger but still indirect role in policy formulation and decision- making due to the strong role played in these two stages of the policy cycle by members of the political executive. The representational system also limits the public’s ability to ensure that electorally salient policy issues actually move onto official government agendas. this power should not be overestimated. executive. However. does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that ‘parties do not matter’. the degree of freedom enjoyed by each decision-maker is circumscribed by a host of factors that limit the conduct of each office and constrain the actions of each office-holder. That is. Their role in agenda setting is very weak. Even when parties do manage to raise an issue and see it move from the public to the official agenda. the electoral system is not structured to allow voters a choice on specific policies. of course. Axworthy 1988).voters. The fact that the influence of parties on particular stages of the policy process may be muted. however. while they can have a more direct effect on policy evaluation undertaken by legislators and legislative committees (Minkenberg 2001). Political parties tend to have only an indirect effect on policy making through their role in determining who actually staffs legislative. a governing party will also need to make changes to meet the weaknesses spotted by civil service advisors and parliamentary draftsmen responsible for turning a statement of intent into a bill to present to Parliament. and judicial institutions. but also the procedures they must follow in doing so. These range from limitations imposed by the country’s constitution to the specific mandate conferred on individual decision-makers by various laws and regulations (Pal 1988.

as it provides the backdrop of norms.. “Parties do make a difference in the way [a country] is governed. Many people do not exercise their franchise or engage in party politics. Even when they do. But concretely. of course. voters usually do not vote on the basis of proposed policies alone. which tends to be dominated by experts in specific sectoral areas rather than by legislative generalists. as was discussed above. despite such political attitudes of a great majority of citizens. once elected. One important role played by members of the public in democratic polities. (Rose 1980: 141). Elections are the major instruments in democratic countries to gauge public opinion or popular wishes. and values against which the policy process is displayed. In modern democracies policies are made by representatives of voters who. it is often said that citizens arc therefore indirectly represented in the policy-making process. This is not to say that its role is inconsequential. Voting in genuine elections may be an important method of citizen influence on policy. In some of the American states (like California) and some countries (like Switzerland) citizens can and still vote directly on a legislation or on constitutional amendments which are submitted to the voters for approval.. this aphorism means very little. More significantly. not so much because it 10 . at least not directly. In an abstract sense. Neither they join pressure groups nor do they display any active interest in public affairs. On the one hand. is very negligible. but the differences are not as expected. policy decisions are taken by representative institutions that empower specialized actors to determine the scope and content of public policies. It not only affords citizens the opportunity to express their choice of government. However. Moreover. this is true. are not required to heed the preferences of their constituents in their day-to-day functioning. it is shaped by something stronger than parties. The differences in office between one party and another are less likely to arise from contrasting intentions than from the exigencies of government. The Public (Individual Citizens) Since democratic governments are representative governments. However. rather than the public per se determining policy. Surprising as it may appear. On the other hand. candidates and political parties often do not run in elections on the basis of their policy platforms. by implication. attitudes. policy process. in democratic states voting is the most basic means of participating in the political and.parties are not the primary forces shaping the destiny of …society. the ‘public’ plays a rather small direct role in the public policy process. most legislators participate very little in the policy process. in most liberal democratic states. but also empowers them to pressure political parties and candidates seeking their votes to offer them attractive policy packages. for various reasons. the voters’ policy capacity usually cannot be actualized. even in democratic countries. Citizen participation in policy- making. some still participate directly in decision- making. is voting. Much of a party’s record in office will be stamped upon it from forces outside its control. The most conspicuous difference between authoritarianism and democratic regimes is that democracies choose their top policy makers in genuine elections.

and the RAND. whose interests are more specialized and who do not necessarily seek practical solutions to policy problems. One-party systems like the Soviet Union also seem concerned to meet many citizen wants even as they exclude citizens from more direct participation in policy formation. Such organizations maintain an interest in a broad range of policy problems and employ. either full-time or on a contract basis. it is a truism that no government. but because the existence of genuine elections puts a stamp of approval on citizen participation. can afford to go against the desires. the development of more complex government problems and the need for greater analytic capacity than that possessed by the governments have led to the growth of independent research organizations. the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Major think-tanks in Britain include the Policy Studies Institute and 11 . they often function in a manner similar to their counterparts in think tanks. the Cato Institute. in many instances. However. therefore. howsoever dictatorial. Indeed. finding evidence to support the ideological or interest-driven positions they advocate. research institutes. in the case of some think-tanks. Some of the prominent think-tanks in the United States are the Brookings Institution. customs or traditions of the people. and think- tanks on particular policy issues. University researchers often have theoretical and philosophical interests in public problems that may not lead to research results that can be translated directly into usable knowledge for policy purposes. A think-tank can be defined as an independent organization engaged in multidisciplinary research intended to influence public policy (James 1993). or what are often called ‘think tanks’. they too maintain an image of intellectual autonomy from the government or any political party in order to be taken seriously by policy-makers. elections enforce on proximate policy makers a rule that citizens’ wishes count in policy making. wishes. the American Enterprise Institute. Even dictators undertake many popular measures to keep down unrest or discontent against the regime. academics undertaking directly relevant policy research are sponsored by think-tanks (Ricci 1993). Similar organizations in Canada include the C. Howe Institute. In fact.actually permits citizens to choose their officials and to some degree instructs these officials on policy. This sets them apart somewhat from academic researchers at universities.D. the Fraser Institute. experts on various issue areas in order to develop a comprehensive perspective on the issues facing governments. the Urban Institute. Research Organizations and Public Policy Think Tanks Another significant set of unofficial actors in the policy process is composed of the researchers working at universities. To the extent that they do conduct research for the purpose of participating in policy debates. Indirectly. While think-tanks are generally more partisan than their purely academic counterparts. and the Institute for Research on Public Policy. Their research tends to be directed at proposing practical solutions to public problems or.

1993. and Cato is libertarian. etc. like RAND. This new brand of research and analysis is dependent on ‘the public policy food chain’. Others. Over the last few decades. Think-tanks target their research and recommendations to those politicians who may be expected to be favourably disposed to the ideas being espoused. In India too. much of the work of think-tanks has been devoted to promoting economic efficiency. which have come up in recent years. the American Enterprise Institute is somewhat more to the right. They also seek originality in their ideas and. a position that allows for significant influence on the preferences of government and society in regard to the identification of public problems and their solutions. news programmes do not just report on a problem but often go to great lengths in locating a problem not otherwise obvious. The role of the media in the policy process originates in the fact that in reporting problems they function both as passive reporters and as active analysts. In addition. and policy briefs that can be quickly read and digested have replaced book-length studies as the primary output of many think-tanks. While some regard the role of the mass media in the policy process as pivotal (Herman and Chomsky 1988. The media’s role in agenda-setting is thus particularly significant. which includes a range of knowledge and policy-oriented institutions. Short reports. there are a few policy think tanks like Centre for Policy Research. There is no denying that the mass media are crucial links between the state and society.the National Institute for Economic and Social Research. their direct role in the various stages of the policy process is often sporadic and most often quite marginal. and developing countries. That is. at the same time. defining its nature and scope and suggesting or implying the availability of potential solutions. some with broad policy mandates. and others that are more limited in their purview such as the Canadian Environmental Law Association (Lindquist. Parenti 1986). developed. The need for a quick response to policy issues and problems has forced many think-tanks to develop new ‘product lines’. are more closely associated with their methodological style. a premium has been placed on writing articles and pieces for newspapers and making appearances on radio and television programmes. like political parties. While Brookings and Urban Institute are center-left. RAND uses very sophisticated techniques in its analyses of a range of public issues. unlike the researchers working in universities or the government. as well as advocates of particular policy solutions. spend a great deal of effort publicizing their findings. media constitutes one of the important intermediating actors active in the policy-making process. Abelson. Literally hundreds of such institutes are active in the Western. Observer Research Foundation. Mass Media Last but not the least. Yet. Media portrayal of public problems and proposed solutions often conditions how they are 12 . journal articles. others describe it as marginal (Kingdon 1984). 1996). Many think tanks are associated with a particular ideological position. since this has been an important preoccupation of the governments in the industrialized world.

the structure of political institutions affects the autonomy and capacity of the executive and bureaucracy. 13 . policy issues that can be translated into an interesting story tend to be viewed by the public as more important than those that do not lend themselves so easily to narrative structures and first-person accounts and sound bites. and the extent to which they succeed in their efforts depend to a large extent on the institutional context in which they operate. research organizations/think tanks and the media often play a significant role in many policy areas. very often the media are led by state opinion rather than vice versa (Howlett 1997). These structures have a decisive effect on actors’ interest and behaviour. Indeed. in the sense that they define what is worthy of reporting and the aspects of a situation that should be highlighted. As a rule. Indeed. At the domestic level. the mass media has the tendency to be a one-sided source for setting the policy agenda. thereby shutting out some alternatives and making the choice of others more likely. as it has an inclination toward the sensational news and also a tendency to exaggerate some aspects of an issue. while playing down others. crime stories receive so much prominence in television news and. This partially explains why. however. Reporters and editors are newsmakers. It is not uncommon for public officials and successful interest groups to provide selective information to the media to bolster their case. they often use the media to their own advantage. This is particularly significant considering that news reporting is not an objective mirror of reality. how they do so. it can be said that while the official actors like the minister(s) and bureaucrats by virtue of their central position in the policy subsystem and access to abundant organizational resources critically affect and influence the policy process. their societal counterparts like interest groups (business and labour). exaggerate the mass media’s role in the policy process.understood by the public and many members of government. and policy-makers are for the most part intelligent and resourceful individuals who understand their own interests and have their own ideas about appropriate or feasible policy options. as a corollary the public puts pressure on governments to appear to act tough on crime. But what objectives they pursue. and on the outcomes of the policy process. political parties. Thus. However. undistorted by bias or inaccuracy. a situation paralleled at the international level by the structure of international regimes and the role played by state resources within them. they are not easily swayed by media portrayals of issues and preferred policy solutions or by the mere fact of media attention. for example. which they seek to achieve through subsystem membership and participation in the policy process. Other policy actors have resources enabling them to counteract media influence. We must not. All these actors have their own objectives. Conclusion To conclude.

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