Rens Vliegenthart


Useful links

NWO Confict and Security Programme

NWO Omstreden Democratie Programme

Belgian agenda setting project

Comparative policy agenda project

The contingency of media’s impact on national parliaments: a comparative
study’ - This project got awarded a VENI grant by the Dutch science foundation NWO and has been conducted in 2010-2013. Here's a short outline:
In many Western countries, media are argued to be parliamentarians’ main compass
in determining which issues deserve their attention and how they have to interpret
those issues. This proposal focuses on this alleged influence of media coverage on
parliamentary activity regarding immigration, inflation and European integration in
the Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom and Belgium. While recent research
offers evidence that mass media’s influence on parliament is largely a contingent
process, it is still far from clear which factors influence this relationship. This
research develops and tests a framework that encompasses a range of factors that
might affect the presence and strength of media’s influence on parliament. First, both
media and parliament and multi-faceted. Different media outlets and content
characteristics might have different consequences. In a similar vein, parliamentary
activity ranges from more symbolic acts to more substantial activities. Moreover,
parliament is not a unitary actor and different parliamentarians might respond
differently to media coverage. Second, the type of issue under consideration, cross-
national differences in political-institutional settings and time dynamics are expected
to affect the size of mass media’s impact. The research encompasses a content
analysis of newspapers and television as well as transcripts of parliamentary debates,
parliamentary questions and legislative proposals. The focus will be both on the
amount of attention for issues as well as the way the issues are framed. The content
analysis will be largely automated using recently developed software. Econometric
time-series are used to relate media coverage causally to parliamentary activity. In
those analyses, possible other explanations for changes in parliamentary activity, such
as immigration and inflation figures will be controlled for. In this way, claims about
the alleged mass media power are put to a rigid test and the research contributes to
our understanding of the role of mass media in the democratic process.

I’m involved or have recently been involved in sereral other research projects, among which a project on politicization of political issues,
headed by prof. dr. Wouter van der Brug (UvA) and funded by the NWO conflict and security scheme), the NWO VICI-project "Communication and EUrope", headed by prof. dr. Claes de Vreese (UvA) and a project om personalization and  popularization in Dutch politics, funded by the NWO "Omstreden Democratie" schema and headed by prof. dr. Dick Houtman (Erasmus University). Furthermore, I work closely with the Belgian team of the comparative policy agendas project, headed by prof. dr. Stefaan Walgrave (University of Antwerp). See the links on the left side of this page for more information.

Rens Vliegenthart, 2010