Communication within the Transport Policy. Media and informal political communication--a case study.

VerfasserKamps, Klaus

1 Introduction

Within policy-analysis most political science approaches concentrate on the political system and associations as well as the influence of institutionalized decisions (Blum and Schubert 2009; Bandelow 1998; Noweski 2008; Sebaldt and StraBner 2004). Communication, in particular, is being examined only marginally (Sarcinelli and Tenscher 2008: 8), it functions as a basic frame of reference at most (cf. Kamps, Horn and Wicke 2013: 276). This is rather astounding as internal and external communications serve as the main tasks (cf. Jentges et al. 2012: 384.) of such or-ganizations. If one takes the dictum seriously that political com-munication is not only a tool for politics but politics itself (cf. Jarren and Donges 2002: 22), the question occurs to what extent studies based on communication sciences provide a complementary insight into political negotiation and decision-making systems.

The relation between politics or political public relations and journalism has been present on the agenda of political communication research for quite some time (e.g. Baerns 1985). A focus on communicative and medial influences on decision-making processes in policy fields and decisions themselves, on the other hand, is rather new (Koch-Baumgarten and Mez 2007a; Jarren, Lachenmeister and Steiner 2007; Vowe 2007; Koch-Baumgarten and Voltmer 2009, 2010). One result of these works is the high dependency on contextual information concerning the question if and to what extent media have an analytically traceable impact on decisions. This means whether the 'media logic' affects the process of a concrete political decision-making or not and, furthermore, under which--institutional, structural and situational--circumstances this might be the case. In short, the state of affairs and its political and economical reach, the special network con-figurations within the policy field and formal guidelines within the multi-level system matter.

These findings somewhat contradict those analysis which may be found under the key words 'medialization' or 'mediatization' and state a broad orientation of political actors or organizations on a media logic (for further discussion cf. Reinemann 2010). Against this background, the present exploratory analysis examines the, Luftverkehrsteuergesetz' (hereafter: LuftVStG) in order to answer the question to what extent formal and informal communication, systematic processes and institutions influence political decision-making processes within the political negotiation system. The LuftVStG has been passed as a 'junktim' deal in the context of a fiscal consolidation package and did not require approval by the German, Bundesrat'.

  1. Media, politics, policy fields: an outline of the theoretical background

Within the German policy-analysis such concepts and approaches dominate that concentrate on a "democracy by negotiation" (e.g. Lehmbruch 2003). Nonetheless, these approaches neglect processes of political communication and, therefore, most of the time the medias' impact on political decision-making processes (Koch-Baumgarten and Mez 2007b: 8-9). Still, (neo)institutional, control-theoretical or systematical approaches do dominate at this point (ibid.: 9).

In comparison, communication science--using catchphrases like 'mediatization' or 'medialization'--broadly discusses to what extent political actors orientate themselves on the media and even adjust their own activities (Meyen 2009; Reinemann 2010). Communication studies investigate the consequences on the manufacturing, presentation and legitimization of politics: for example on the interaction- and information-behavior of parliamentarians (Puhe and Wurzberg 1989), on experts in policy transfer (Tenscher 2003), on specialized journalists (Rinke et al. 2006), on parliaments as organizations (Marschall 1999), parties (Alemann and Marschall 2002) or on communication of associations (Hoffjann and Stahl 2010; Steiner and Jarren 2009). Other surveys investigate 'relationship games' (cf. Donsbach et al. 1993) between two groups of actors, e.g. journalists and political spokespersons (Pfetsch 2003; Pfetsch and Mayerhoffer 2011) or PR-employees (Gottwald 2006). All these studies are united by the fact that they are frequently adjusted to the relationship of interaction of politics and journalism (Kamps, Horn and Wicke 2013). Anyhow, it has to be mentioned that both political and communication science look at the subject matter of association communication and communication of interest groups through their particular disciplinary lenses (Jentges et al. 2012: 385).

Specifically concerning policy fields there exists just a relatively small number of case studies (cf. e.g. Koch-Baumgarten and Mez 2007; Koch-Baumgarten and Voltmer 2010; Hoffjann and Stahl 2010; Kamps, Horn and Wicke 2013), which all in all provide us with a multi-facetted picture: Political decision in policy fields may be made without traceable media influence over long periods of time so that politics follows its own inner logic. However, this can change under specific structural and situation-al circumstances. Especially fragmented actor-constellations, a missing or bursting fundamental consensus, the exclusion of public actors in the field and the compatibility of concrete policy is-sues and media logic have to be taken into account (Koch-Baumgarten and Voltmer 2009: 313). Based on these findings it is not feasible to globally answer the questions if, when and in which manner the media do influence specific decisions within the political negotiation system.

Apart from this ambivalence of empirically verifiable factors of influence, actors may assume that the media actually have an impact in specific situations or, at least, they cannot completely deny the idea that this impact might exist. In this way, classic association-research distinguishes between an influence and support-logic (cf. Steiner and Jarren 2009; Jentges et al. 2012: 386-388; Roose 2009): Political communication in form of direct or indirect, media-transmitted communication of interests towards political decision-makers (influence logic) as well as in form of direct or media-orientated communication towards members or other circles of supporters (support logic) (cf. Roose 2009). One of the few broader quantitative studies concerning the communication of interest groups in Germany (Jentges et al. 2012) complements this perspective with a so-called reputation logic and a reciprocity logic: Regarding the acceptance of their concern or request associations do orientate themselves on the mass media and journalism (reputation logic). Following the logic of reciprocity they also orientate themselves on relevant segments of the public, e.g. on other associations or intermediate organizations (ibid.: 25-26.). This way, a simple association-policy-dyad may be further differentiated: Interest groups do not only accommodate to their members or political counterparts, they also keep an eye on other actors and organizations within their field as well as on specialized media, online-strategies and more.

Following this line of argumentation, a concern of this study, on the one hand, was to answer the general research question about the communication in the negotiation system of the transport policy. On the other hand, it was also about clarifying whether--and if so--how public or non-public communicative strategies (and their effectiveness) could be explained by the procedure context of the LuftVStG: a) the fact that the law didn't require any approval by the German Bundesrat, b) the fact that the law was part of a fiscal consolidation package and therefore subjected to a 'junktim'.

3 Method

3.1 Background information: The Luftverkehrssteuergesetz

As mentioned, this study concentrates on the LuftVStG as its examination background. This specific law was one component of a consolidation package that was accepted as governmental initiative in June 2010. Being spread over four year, the fiscal package (cf. Borschel et al. 2012: 4-5) embraced an amount of 80 billion Euros. Thereby, about one billion Euros have been allocated to the LuftVStG. Precisely, the law provides that when taking off from a German airport (starting from January 1st, 2011) all air-lines have to pay a fee for every passenger. This graduated 'tax' differs depending on the destination. On January 1st, 2012 the fee declined. Being a part of a consolidation package, the responsibility for elaborating this act fell within the scope of the Federal Minister of Finance. Moreover, this law did not require any approval by the German Bundesrat.

Three official objectives have been pursued through implementing the law: Firstly, the air transport should be included within the mobility taxation. Secondly, it should offer an incentive to behave in a more environment-friendly manner. Thirdly, probably as its main objective, this law depicts a contribution to the volume of savings. (1)

Some characteristics made the law quite useful for this study: a) the act was adopted as a federal law which is why the federal states had no influence on the law and the political responsibilities were clearly given. Also, b) the law was part of a reform package and a variance in topics could be expected--exceeding the general field logic. Besides that, c) the law could be discussed in different contextual dimensions: socially (consumer), economically (passenger numbers, enterprises' losses) and ecologically (mobility taxation). Furthermore, there was a possibility of reducing the tax after the time period of one year and an evaluation report was about to be published by the government in the summer of 2012. All this led to the assumption that within an acceptable timeframe, a discussion about the tax within the political field might be expected and that it would bring along a sufficient variance for the planned framing analysis. The study chose different methods in order to pursue its...

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