As media policy research and the methods used for conducting such research
(for this see Chapters 1 and 2 by Puppis and Van den Bulck) develop further,
the question ‘What is next?’ arises near-spontaneously. Media sectors
seem to be in a continuous turmoil. This can make one wonder whether
the challenges that issues such as fake news, data protection, the further
integration of media ownership, the pressure on press freedom, the limited
accountability and liability of intermediaries, … create for policy makers,
can be studied if one does not innovate at the methodological level too. That
is one of the elements motivating this handbook on methods for conducting
media policy research. The aim is to devote attention to those methods,
techniques and approaches that have demonstrated their robustness, while at
the same time exploring the value of genuinely innovative methods.
In media policy research, two main fields of innovative activity can be
observed. Firstly, not only the subject of our analysis, but also the meansto perform that analysis are becoming more digital. That applies to both
data collection and data analysis and allows for the inclusion of an enormous
amount of data in research, for example, algorithm-based content
analysis of policy documents. It also allows existing types of analysis,
such as network analysis, to become more solidly based in a vast amount
of empirical data and less anecdotal in nature. Second, and at the metalevel,
research endeavors are looking more at what those affected by policies
think, complementary to how scientists and policy-makers themselves
evaluate policies. This move can be regarded as a move from top-down to
inclusive, bottom-up approaches. For example, analyzing the effectiveness
of media literacy policies on the basis of documents and without including
the recipients of certain initiatives seems a suboptimal approach. To some
extent it can be argued that whereas digital methods of data collection and
analysis can be part of both administrative and critical policy research, a
genuine inclusive and bottom-up methodological approach fits within critical
research only. The difference between administrative and critical policy
research has been discussed by Just and Puppis (2012, p. 17) and is also
discussed in the introductory chapters by Puppis and Van den Bulck in this
book. These scholars argue that specifically critical, often normative and
evaluative research on media policy is dominant within the field whereas
purely descriptive, client-oriented research has become less important,
certainly in a European context. Whereas one can indeed argue that participative
approaches can be part of administrative research in so far they
concern a basic consultation of consumers’ preferences, the participative
approach discussed below sets out from an iterative and dialogical relationship
between citizen and researcher.
The chapter consists of the following parts. The first part contains a discussion
of the focus in media policy research on the difference between ‘old’
and ‘new’ media policies, on formal government policies and on the reliance
on traditional methods such as document analysis and expert interviews.
On the basis of that analysis, some pitfalls and shortcomings of
media policy research are addressed. The neglect of bottom-up aspects of
media policy, for example, requires a more ethnographic approach. The
second part in this chapter elaborates on the emerging practice of digital
methods. Part three discusses the rise of ‘participatory action research for
policy development’ methodologies. We conclude with some lessons for
those interested in developing methods for media policy research in the
twenty-first century.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Methods for Media Policy Research
EditorsH Van Den Bulck, M Puppis, K Donders, L Van Audenhove
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783030160654
ISBN (Print)9783030160647
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • media studies, communication studies, methods, methodology, digital methods, media policy research

ID: 46814740