Media Attention and the Demise of Agency Independence: Evidence from a Mass Administrative Reorganization in Britain
When administrative agencies are terminated, do they quietly fade from public view? On the one hand, the terminated agencies may have weak issue networks and agency reputations allowing them to lose public salience. On the other hand, strong issue networks and agency reputations may mean that termination increases attention to the agencies, making the government pay the cost of public attention generated by the actors within the issue networks. We assess these competing claims by using a unique dataset from a recent mass reorganization of independent agencies in Britain as well as data capturing media attention to agencies in major national newspapers. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we find that the agencies subject to termination experience reductions in the number of media coverage in major newspapers, disappearing from public view during the post-decision reform period.