The Role of Mass Media in Corporate Governance: A Study of How Swedish Corporations Are Not Affected By the Character of Publicity
In this paper we report a study of how various types of publicity in the press affects corporate governance in large Swedish listed firms. Building on previously published instruments, we develop and validate an instrument for capturing the intensity of both positive and negative publicity using quantitative content analysis that we apply to Swedish print media pertaining both to the firm and its CEO specifically over the period 1999-2013. We analyze the impact of this publicity on corporate governance in terms of CEO resignation and CEO pay level as well as distribution.
Interestingly, our tentative results suggest that neither positive nor negative publicity on the CEO or the corporation affects either CEO resignation or CEO pay level and distribution. Thus, our results do not conform to previous research having established the importance of media as a gate-keeper. Whereas Bednar (2012) questions the role of media as watchdog in that largely symbolic actions may have important corporate effects, we instead find that media reports have no effect at all. A possible explanation for this may be that the information reported in media is already well-known to the business society, therefore having no effect when published. This is perhaps not very surprising given how close-knit Swedish business relations are (Sinani et al., 2008) and indeed how close the relations between Swedish corporations and the business press tend to be (Grünberg & Pallas, 2013).
Our paper contributes to the literature on the role of media in corporate governance in illustrating how patterns of response to media attention among Swedish firms differ from that of U.S. firms, suggesting that while the media may function as propagators of legitimacy, the underlying normative model propagated may differ among national contexts, implying that the media will have different outcomes in different parts of the world (cf. Jansson, 2013) and indeed sometimes no results at all.