Media Management for Public Service Delivery: Challenges for the Policy-makers

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Hamid Raza Khan*

*The author is a civil servant currently heading the public relations department of a public sector organization.

 

Abstract

(This paper examines the relationship between the media and public policy agenda setting with a focus on analyzing the role of media in helping the policy-makers communicate with the citizens and deliver them public services in a way that best addresses their needs, concerns and preferences in Pakistan. In doing that, this paper analyses the current thinking and practice, within the government policy circles, regarding engaging the media to communicate with the citizens for an effective public service delivery. The paper also seeks to examine the nature and types of challenges the policy-makers face in negotiating with a media environment constantly being shaped, redefined and made more complex and complicated by the 24/7 news cycle, the spread of social media and new forms of communication used by the citizens to participate in national debates, government policy-making and the delivery of public services.

 Using a variety of micro and macro perspectives and analysis of secondary data comprising of a broad range of academic sources, the paper argues that the public service delivery in Pakistan has deteriorated significantly, not merely by the failure of policy-makers to see and understand the media’s potential in being an abler and multiplier in the service delivery, but also due to their poor understanding of the media environment in which they operate. By examining the evolving nature of the media-policy relationship, the volatility of the media environment and the policy responses to the notion of media engagement for service delivery, the paper identifies a series of challenges the policy-makers are likely to face as they engage with the media to maximise the outcomes of public service delivery. – Author)

Introduction

Governments and policy-makers across the globe engage with the media to deliver public services to citizens. The media help policy- makers convey relevant information to the citizens to help them make thoughtful decisions and intelligent judgments about various public services and how those services can address their needs and concerns. Media are a key player in modern-day governing which increasingly involves “constant exchange of information and communication about policies, ideas and decisions between governors and the governed” (Sanders & Canel 2013, p.1). In the liberal model of democracy, the media are not merely seen as a tool of information but as an institution promoting democracy by providing opportunities and resources to the citizens to identify and articulate their issues and influence government action at the level of policy-making and service delivery.

The role of media in public service delivery has increased in recent years due to an exponential growth in the media industry and a growing mediatization of politics. The 24/7 news cycle that comes with an in-depth coverage of news and events and a faster pace of news production, has dramatically changed the media environment and increased the focus of the media on the performance of policy-makers and their contribution to service delivery. The spotlight on public policy and service delivery has also increased by the spread of Internet and the proliferation of social and online news resources that allow the citizens real-time opportunity to keep track of the performance of their elected representatives and demand greater and enhanced levels of public services as per their needs and preferences.

The media and public scrutiny of public service delivery is expected to increase even further in future as the need for public services increases and more and more people access public information through news media and the Right to Information (RTI) laws enacted by governments to promote democratic accountability. On its part, access to government information is also likely to further motivate the citizens in using the available information to participate in government decision-making and ensure the provision of quality public services to them in a manner that takes care of their needs, concerns and expectations.

While policy-makers respond to public expectations and aspirations in an usual perfunctory manner, rapid changes in media  and communication technologies and enhanced reporting and coverage of public issues impacting on governance and service delivery, are transforming the media environment. This makes it more complex and challenging for policy-makers to engage with citizens in an effort to deliver them quality public services and retain their trust and credibility in the governance machinery.

The media have come to exercise considerable influence  on  public policy and service delivery in recent times. While there is an understanding and acknowledgement of an increased role of  the  media in public policy and effective delivery of public services, the corresponding need and urgency on the part of policymakers to engage with the media to maximize the outcomes of public service delivery   is still not fully understood (Husain, I, 2008). While some academic works have tried to examine the weaknesses and strengths of the media and their contribution to good governance in recent years (Qureshi, S. Ahmad 2016; Husain I 2018b), they fail to examine the growing complexity of the media environment and the ensuing challenges for the policy-makers to engage themselves with the media for an effective public service delivery. This study is aimed at filling this gap. In doing so, it seeks to explore the nature of media-public policy nexus and how it has evolved over the years. It also investigates the extent and in what ways the media provide the citizens with opportunities and resources to participate in the public policy process and scrutinize the delivery of public services on a day-to-day basis. Similarly, the paper also studies the phenomenon of the 24/7 news cycle and how modern communication technologies and newer forms of  communication  have  contributed to the complexity of the media environment. In the end, it identifies the challenges and opportunities that have emerged in the wake of a complex and challenging media landscape and how the policy-makers can successfully engage with the media to achieve maximum outcomes of service delivery.

This study is significant in that it not only examines the challenges that have emerged for the policy-makers in the wake of a complex and challenging media landscape, it also seeks to situate the significance  of media engagement at the core of public policy debates with an aim to project the media as an enabler and a multiplier in public service delivery. In doing that, the study is expected to draw positive policy responses to the challenges emanating from the growing complexity  of media landscape by turning these challenges into opportunities to maximize public benefit. Given its exploratory nature, this study is expected to lead to wider academic discourse and research into an area that has not been explored much, despite its relevance to effective public service delivery.

While the media-public policy relationship requires deeper and wider analysis to bring out fresh and multiple perspectives on the role of media in public service delivery, this study is limited to a qualitative analysis of the role of media in public service delivery and what challenges lie ahead for the policy-makers in negotiating the media minefield to come clean on the promise of effective service delivery in Pakistan. While the term ‘media’ is referred to in general, the study mainly focuses    on the television, print and online news media accessed by the public and the policy-makers to exchange information and promote mutual understanding on the delivery of public services on day-to-day basis.

Contextualizing media’s role in public policy

 In order to fully understand and contextualize the relationship between the media and public policy making and the impact of this relationship on public service delivery, a basic understanding of the key concepts involved in this triangle is necessary. According to the Dictionary of Media and Communication (Danesi, M 2009, pp.192), the media are the various forms, devices, and systems that make up mass communications considered as a whole, including newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television channels, and websites. In broader terms, the media can also be defined in terms of their “near universality of reach, great popularity and public character” as well as their impact on the cultural life and political organization of contemporary societies and their role in the process of democratic politics by providing an arena and channel for wide debate and distributing diverse information and opinion (McQuail, D 2000, p.4).

The concept of “public policy making” is defined by Kingdon (1995, pp.2–3) as “a set of processes consisting of setting of the agenda, specification of alternatives, authoritative choice and implementation.” This definition suggests several stages where different actors, including the media, can take part in the policy making process. The notion of public service is explained in the ‘Handbook of Research on ICTs for Human-Centered Healthcare and Social Care Services’ (Cruz-Cunha, Manuela 2013, pp.406) which defines it as “the mechanism through which public services are delivered to the public by local, municipal, or federal governments. Sewage and trash disposal, street cleaning, public education, and health services are some of the examples of public services”.

Theoretically, the role of media in public-policy making and public service delivery is based on the media effects theories which discuss and explain how the media influence and shape the public attitudes and perceptions. The principle theories that deal with media effects include the framing theory which explains how the media present or frame an issue by packaging and presenting information in a certain way to the public; the agenda-setting theory that explains how the news media influence the importance of topics within the public agenda by telling the politicians and policy-makers what to think about; and the priming theory which elaborates how the media attend to certain issues and accord them salience in comparison with others.

Besides the media effects theories, the public sphere model of media is also used by academics and researchers to project the media as “the eyes and ears” of the public by performing the role of a watchdog of basic freedoms and a guarantor of democracy. The public sphere notion attaches supreme importance to democracy which is seen as functioning only if three of its elements – equality, participation and a public sphere that serves as the basis for sovereignty – are fully functioning. This model values the equality of ability as well as opportunity for a meaningful participation that “must be clearly and decisively connected to the political decisions that direct the activity of the participants’ community” are also essential for a democracy (Barney, D 2000).

Although the notion of public sphere which sees the media as a principle forum for articulating public issues and concerns is rooted in history and the role of media in politics is also an established fact, the role of media in the public policy making and service delivery has emerged as a field of academic enquiry in recent times (Koch-Baumgarten, S   & Voltmer, K 2010, p.1). In order to assess the nature and impact of media on public policy and service delivery, Walgrave & Aelst (2006) examined 18 academic studies conducted over a period of 30 years and found at least 12 of those studies reporting a strong or considerable media influence on public policy. Ten years later, the same scholars teamed up again to analyze 30 more empirical studies carried out between 2005 and 2015 to investigate the relationship between the media and public policy agenda setting and they again found “ample and recent” evidence to establish that “the media does affect the political agenda” (Walgrave & Aelst, 2016).

Academic research has also established that while governments seek to formulate and implement public policy as per their election manifestos and political philosophies, in many cases the philosophical thinking of governments is heavily influenced by external factors such as the media that help to “condition or re-shape public policy thinking and implementation” (Kamau & Berry 2016, p. xi). Similarly, governments use the media “to test public opinion by leaking proposals to a  reporter who will value the scoop” while the media helps governments circulate “vital information about public services – and government accomplishments – while providing opportunities for opposition parties to criticize government and propose alternative policies” (Fletcher & Taras, 1984, p.208). In performing this function, the media also provides the citizens necessary information for “effective political participation” and a forum for “debate on public issues”.

Generally, it is assumed that the media exert greater influence in the initial stages of the policy making process by setting the policy agenda for politicians, policy-makers and other actors. However, evidence suggests that the impact of media is rarely constrained, and the media are able to exert their influence not just at the beginning but throughout the policy making process (Soroka et al 2011, pp.204-214). The media influence service delivery by forcing the policy decisions to be taken in haste and without due consideration. The media also have the potential to either scale up conflicts by sensationalizing issues and creating confrontational negativity or reduce tensions and overcome political blockades by building new consensus or reinforcing the already existing elite consensus on public policy (Koch-Baumgarten, S & Voltmer, K, 2010, pp.215-225).

While there is overwhelming evidence of the role of media in public policy and service delivery, there is no corresponding effort within the government and policy circles to conceptualise and rethink the role of the media in relationship to governance. In most cases, governance strategies fall short of integrating media and communication issues into their strategic plans (Deane, J 2015).

State of public service delivery in Pakistan

 In Pakistan, democratic transition has become a reality since 2008 with the country witnessing the third consecutive handover of power from one civilian government to another in August 2018. However, the fruits of democracy have not resulted in better service delivery which has led to a crisis of governance. The mood of the public on the gaps in governance and service delivery is reflected in public opinion polls, news articles, editorials, analysis papers, seminars and discussions as well as in observations of politicians and the civil society actors who express  a high level of dissatisfaction with various tiers of the government responsible for public service delivery (Husain, I 2012, p.16).

Ironically, the demand for better and improved public services  and goods is fuelled by a paradox manifesting itself in the erosion of the state’s capacity to provide more and improved services and goods and a parallel round-the-clock bombardment of catchy and enticing advertisements on the electronic media whetting the public appetite  for those goods and services. The crisis of governance is, therefore, underscored by the challenge of “the media and government” (Ahmad I, Rafiq A 2017, pp.110-111). As this crisis deepens, even sensible economic policies are not implemented because of the dysfunctionality of institutions implementing these policies. In the prevailing vacuum, civil society led by the media and other civil society organizations has begun to keep a vigil on the institutions and “participate in the provision of social services such as education, and health wherever possible” (Husain, I 2018b, p.29).

In Pakistan, the crisis of public communication and weak civic engagement also owes to a never-ending discussion on the future role of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MoIB) and its cadre of information officers. The MoIB which is responsible for government communication through its communication grid manned by information officers under the Press Information Department, has come under the microscope on many occasions in the past but a clear understanding on how the Ministry can be used effectively as the communication hub of federal government and its various ministries and departments has not fully emerged. In the past, Dr Ishrat Husain-led National Commission for Government Reforms (NCGR) also reflected on the future of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting but in the end, it admitted that “the NCGR has no clear views on this highly critical issue” and instead called for “an exploration of various options”, including “a more in-depth study in light of the overwhelming dominance of private electronic media and the marginalization of the government owned channels” (Husain I 2012a, p.92).

Nature of media-public service delivery nexus

The relationship between the media and public service delivery    in Pakistan stems from the ability of the Pakistani media to focus on democratic accountability in view of the government’s failure to meet expectations of a majority of the population. The Pakistani media is considered to have served as an “information conduit between the government and the populace” by acting as a watchdog on official malfeasance, monitoring service delivery, reporting on key issues and, in the process, exerting pressure on public service providers (PILDAT 2018). The media scrutiny of public service delivery has increased in recent years due to the expansion of the electronic media that has “raised consciousness” of citizens about their rights and obligations of the state to a level where politicians are routinely “confronted by young men about their performance” (Husain, I 2018).

The media scrutiny of public service delivery is so intense that despite achieving respectable levels of growth and success, successive governments in Pakistan have been punished by the voters for bad performance. This was evident in the run up to the July 2018 elections when the media initiated an intense debate on how well the provincial governments had performed on “the delivery of public services” and consequently these media discussions and debates helped the voters formulate their voting choices in the elections (‘Elections 2018: The battle of narratives’ 2018).

Growth of electronic and digital media in Pakistan

Pakistan has witnessed a mushroom growth of media during the last two decades; from a single state-owned Pakistan Television (PTV) to a media environment characterised by a proliferation of media in all forms – television, radio, newspapers and online media platforms. A recent report by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) reveals that as many as 88 satellite television channels and 234 FM channels have already been issued licenses to set up their broadcasting operations in Pakistan (PEMRA Annual Report 2015-2018).

The growth of electronic media has helped build a strong civil society and an informed citizenry in Pakistan. The media are credited with articulating the public demands and serving as gatekeepers by helping the citizenry to be heard in ways previously denied by political institutions (Yusuf, H & Schoemaker, E 2013). According to a survey conducted across Pakistan in 2018, nearly 68 % Pakistanis closely follow the local news while 51% believe the media is doing well in reporting the most important news. Similarly, 60% Pakistanis believe the news organizations are doing well in reporting news accurately while 58% agree that the media organizations are doing well at reporting news about government leaders and officials (Gilani Research Foundation poll 2018).

In recent years, the popularity of social media and the growing use of Internet-enabled mobile phones has also widened civic space and enhanced public access to information. This has led to a situation where people openly call for transparency and accountability, especially as “live broadcasts relay information across the country and expose official shortcomings, blunders and excesses without fear or favour” (Husain, F 2013).

While the media spotlight on public policy and service delivery continues, the government has begun to concede that the media in Pakistan are playing a “vital role” in informing the masses about government’s policies (‘Media played vital role in informing public about government policies: Firdous’ 2019). However, despite a growing media role in the public service delivery, the policy-makers have failed to engage with the media to create understanding and acceptance of public polices as their focus continues to remain on viewing the media agenda as a short-cut to public opinion and consequently changing and adjusting the policies or shelving them until public opinion becomes favorable.

Navigating the Media: Challenges for the Policy-makers

It is generally believed that the crisis of governance and poor service delivery is compounded by the nature of Pakistani media, particularly the electronic media which thrives on anti-government news and dedicates almost all its prime time to news  bulletins  and  hourly  talk  shows that routinely censure the ministers and government officials to the appreciation of the audiences (Khan, M Atif 2009, pp.30-47). However, the government failure to implement policies is also due to poor citizen engagement which results from a lack of desire as well as capacity in policy-makers to engage in regular civic engagement to further improve service delivery. Yet, another factor that contributes to weak media engagement stems from the inability of policy-makers to come to terms with the complexity of a “technology-led and technology-enabled” media landscape, the demands of a 24/7 news cycle and the growing use of social and digital media by the citizens to access government information and use it to scrutinize public service delivery. In the emerging media landscape, the policy-makers find themselves facing  a host of challenges – some of which are discussed in the subsequent pages – they must surmount to be able to successfully engage with the media for effective public service delivery.

Good governance relies on civic engagement

The primacy of civic engagement for good governance is highlighted by a newspaper columnist who compares the performance of current PTI government with the past regimes in the following words: “The difference between the previous governments and the current government is that they (past rulers) worked less but projected their work at the national level in a way that gave the impression as if that work had neither been done before nor it was likely to be repeated in future. Contrary to that, the current government may have performed exceedingly well, yet it has miserably failed to convey its performance to the people.” (Dhilon, Ali A 2019. p.10).

The above excerpt highlights the error in judgment the governments and policy-makers often make in weighing and factoring in the role of the media in promoting policies and creating public acceptance and approval for those policies by constantly  informing  and  reminding the public of how their lives are being affected and improved by the new policies. The reason that most of the policy-makers fail to utilise the potential of the media in communicating public policy and service delivery to the masses, owes to a mindset that is pervasive in the civil service and which sees the media as an irritant rather than a key player and enabler in public policy and subsequently service delivery. It is important that policy-makers rid themselves of their inhibitions vis-à- vis engaging with the media and learn to utilize the media potential for an enhanced civic engagement to create a wider acceptance and approval for the policies and service delivery.

Establishing clear lines of communication

Establishing clear lines of communication with the citizenry is essential to deliver a focused and coordinated  communication  that sets and influences the news agenda and controls and amplifies the government narrative. In Pakistan, the governments and policy- makers often lean on “a large number of cooks to stir the media policy pot” but it mostly ends in firefighting. Needless blame-games emerge, especially when those tasked with public communication  step  on  each other’s toes and become news stories themselves. This happens mostly when, instead of ‘what is being said’, the key characteristic of the government’s communications strategy shifts to ‘who is saying   it’ – rendering any attempt to offer a convincing media story about the performance of the government an endless struggle (Rehmat, A 2019). Policy-makers must realize that in achieving quality communication with the audience, a communication loop that involves all associated with communication helps bring order to a mass of often unrelated communication activities and helps government departments work together on agreed themes that correspond to the narrative of the respective organisations and subsequently tie into a unified national narrative.

Expanding social and mobile media

Social media has registered a tremendous growth in Pakistan and as per data shared by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA 2019) on a daily basis at its website, there are already 159 million cellular subscribers, 66 million 3G/4G subscribers and 68 million broadband subscribers contributing to a social media revolution in Pakistan. As per PTA, Pakistan also tops the list of 139 countries in providing most affordable telecom services and it is also ahead of India, Bangladesh and Iran in availability of latest technologies and internet bandwidth which allows the mobile companies in Pakistan to roll out monthly Internet packages at an average price of merely US$ 0.72 for 1GB data (PTA, 2019b).

Easy and affordable availability of Internet and cheap data services has allowed citizens the convenience of using social and mobile media as a tool of co-ordination and participation in the national debate. In response, some government offices, particularly administration and police officials in various districts, have begun to use social media to engage with the citizens but these are mostly individualistic responses not grounded in a clearly defined policy framework. Similarly, government departments and officials who use social media often do so to put out their own one-sided point of view rather than engaging the citizens in a two-way communication that allows a continuous feedback loop necessary for improving policy and performance by factoring in the priorities and aspirations of the citizens.

Challenge of fake news

The phenomenon of fake news is the product of the Internet and the Information Age which had been hailed initially as harbingers of transparency and connectivity. However, the proliferation of the Internet and the growing use of social media has given birth to the phenomenon of fake news whereby false information and mistruths are circulated via smartphones, the internet and social media to spark what the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report of 2013 described as “digital wildfires” in “our hyper-connected world” (Charlton, E, 2019). Despite a widespread global concern expressed at the social and political level by policy makers and governments, the phenomenon of fake news is set to continue for the foreseeable future. The policy makers should not underestimate the potential impact of fake news on service delivery and the challenge it poses to civil society, especially in view of the extent to which the injection of fake news into the media narrative can undermine objectivity in the presentation of facts to members of civil society and prevent meaningful and constructive conversations and debates in addressing national policy challenges (Tan Er-Win 2018).

Electronic media as the new sheriff in town

The electronic media has been hailed as “the new sheriff in town” and a decisive new factor in the power game in view of its ability to involve the citizens in vital public policies and government decision- making. Similarly, the media has also assumed the role of a “public sentinel” by holding the powerful to account and bringing governments under tight scrutiny. As the trend continues, “the governments, and in fact every player in politics, will have to contend with its strength and intrusive glare,” for “it is no longer possible to get away with duplicity and contradictions and, in the government’s case, with high handedness” (Mehmood, S 2007).

Another aspect of the growth of electronic media is that, unlike the past when newspapers often got away by telling the readers that the relevant spokespersons in government departments were not available to speak on a certain issue till the filing of the news reports, television news channels and their endless tickers and talk shows require constant feeding of information from policy-makers. The recent appointment of 40 spokespersons by the Punjab government to engage with the media serves as a reminder that “democracy is not about one man speaking for the government all the time as might have been the case in the past; it is about giving a voice to the masses” (Dawn 2019).

Evidence-based policies

Evidenced-based policies are becoming increasingly popular with the citizens. However, the success of such policies depends heavily on the sharing of credible and timely information with the citizens to involve them in monitoring and evaluating policy outcomes and improving   the design. Sharing authentic and credible data is also crucial for the success of policies. In the past, the governments were able to get away with sharing incomplete or faulty data with media-persons about GDP growth, revenue collection figures or other economic programs, but the media has, over the years, learnt to double-check facts and figures before packaging them in the news bulletins or talk shows. Policy-makers in Pakistan face even a greater challenge on this front as the Pakistani media, by virtue of its evolving nature and character, rarely accepts  the government numbers without questioning their authenticity which highlights the need for strengthening statistical capacity and enhancing freedom of information for modern economic management and retaining the confidence of investors and entrepreneurs (Nabi, I 2008).

Notion of open & inclusive government

Like elsewhere in the world, the notion of an open and inclusive government is also gaining traction in Pakistan where right to information laws have been enacted at the federal and provincial level to help citizens access government information and participate in the policy-making process and the provision of public services in a real and effective way. The right to information laws are set to become more popular with the citizens in coming days and it would be in the fitness of things to further strengthen these laws to allow greater access to information to the citizens as well as the media so that these laws can achieve the same, if not better, results as they have achieved in neighboring India “in altering the attitude, behavior and responsiveness of the government functionaries” (Husain I, 2012b, p.275).

Similarly, the government is planning to come up with a new media regulatory authority that covers the entire spectrum of media, including the social and mobile media, on the model of Ofcom in the UK and FCC in the US. While the proposed regulatory body is still in the pipeline, the policy-makers should continue to encourage and support the use of media “to open up society, move away from an insular worldview and towards integration with the rest of the world by encouraging electronic media outlets as well as the press to introduce unbiased reporting and objective analysis in the news coverage” (Waseem, M 2011).

Prompt response to service delivery issues

Greater access to information has significantly raised the level of public scrutiny and accountability of “democratic performance” and “policy performance”. This has happened at a time when the citizen’s expectations for better governance and enhanced service delivery have increased despite limitation of resources available to the government. In such a situation, the policy-makers must react quickly to the service delivery issues because the technology-enabled  modern  media  has not only created new ways for the citizens to communicate with the government and ensure public services, they have also created more awareness among the masses who expect and desire quick response and immediate solutions to the civic problems as well as regular, top- quality public services to meet their needs (Asghar, M Usman 2013, pp.113-133).

Serving core values of communication with the public

The main objective of any government communication is to provide the citizens with information about government policies, actions, and objectives as well as the logic and rationale behind them. Government officials and public servants are essentially in the service of the citizens and it is their prime duty to communicate with the citizens honestly and truthfully by factoring in core values of civic engagement such    as honesty, integrity, objectivity and impartiality, which are essential for delivering “world-class communications that support ministers’ priorities, improve people’s lives and enable the effective operation   of public service” (Government Communication Service UK 2019). Policy-makers also need to develop professionalism and build trust and a reputation for accuracy with their audience. They should make sure that the facts they share with the media and the citizens are unimpeachable and accurate.

Conclusion

Academic literature on media-public policy relationship and the role of media in public policy demonstrates that the concept of media engagement for public service delivery has not been fully internalized by policy-makers and public servants responsible for service delivery. The study shows that despite a widespread acknowledgement of the role of media as an enabler and multiplier in public policy and its contribution towards improving service delivery, policy-makers and government officials have failed to optimally use and exploit the potential of the media to further strengthen the process of service delivery. The findings also show that despite a growing popularity and widespread use of social and mobile media by the people to coordinate efforts for participation in national debates on public policy and governance, policy-makers continue to shy away from using the strength and reach of the technology- driven and technology-enabled social media to engage with citizens and seek their support and participation in the provision of public services. The study suggests that while in some cases  government  officials may have begun to use social media to connect with citizens, these responses are mostly individualistic in nature and are not grounded in an elaborate policy framework favoring a regular, two-way symmetrical communication allowing a feedback mechanism to promote civic engagement and participation in service delivery. An assessment of the current practices of media engagement by policy-makers in Pakistan also conveys the impression that the phenomenon of poor service delivery is because of, to a considerable degree, a poor understanding by government officials and policy-makers of the complex media environment in which they operate, as well as the challenge of operating in a 24/7 news cycle where a story can begin as a minor item on the morning news but by lunch time or evening, is dominating the headline. The challenge of media dynamism and proliferation for policy-makers is also manifested in the challenge of an open and inclusive government and the demands for formulation of evidence-based policies which are responsive to the needs and preferences of citizens. At the functional level, policy-makers and government officials also face the challenge of exhibiting corresponding urgency and eagerness in establishing clear lines of communication with the citizens, while at the individual level, they are further confronted with the challenge of not merely building but also retaining public trust as well as a reputation for accuracy as they work in their daily routines to promote public good and maximize outcomes of public service delivery. The findings of the study underline the need to place the importance of media engagement for public service delivery at the core of public policy formulations. A policy framework needs to be developed which treats the media not as an irritant but as an enabler and multiplier in public service delivery.

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