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The Divide in the EU and Emerging Hard Populism
An International Study of Relationships at the Executive Summit of Parliamentary Democracies
Edited by Richard Shaw and Chris Eichbaum
This chapter gives an overview of agenda-setting in European Union (EU) studies. Long ignored as a research topic among EU scholars, over the past decade a sizeable literature on EU agenda-setting has arisen. This literature mainly draws on ‘mainstream’ theories and approaches, which were developed in a domestic context. The chapter traces the development of this literature and the main insights it has yielded. At the same time it identifies a number of controversies and challenges, which largely revolve around the extent to which the EU is similar to or different from domestic political systems.
The European Union (EU) facilitated cross-border television broadcasting and on-demand services, including those provided over the internet and mobile networks. More recently, it revised rules on the free flow of personal data across European borders. According to the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), the creative economy accounted for 2.55 million jobs in 2012: 1 out of every 12 jobs, accounting for 8 percent of total service exports. In 2016, the UK’s creative industries were estimated to bring in £84.1 billion, with an annual growth rate of 8.9, accounting for 7.3 percent of the UK economy. The Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA) reported that the multi-channel sector has doubled in employment over the last decade. The UK has been proactive in pushing a liberalising agenda for communications services at the European level. The chapter documents the conditions under which the UK was able to press for this liberal agenda in two policy areas: cross-border broadcasting and data transfer services. These cases were selected as they demonstrate pronounced differences in opinion between UK stakeholders and those of other EU Member States. European Court of Justice Decisions acted as focusing events conducive to change. The UK, acting as a policy entrepreneur, was able to exploit these events and couple them with the Single Market agenda of the European Commission. An additional explanatory factor is that the EU provides a similar institutional setting for UK lobbying groups mirroring a UK pluralist style of participation, which enabled actors to ensure that their preferences were adopted.
Agenda setting and constructivism have established a very close relationship since the first studies on the transformation of an issue into a problem at the beginning of the 20th century. Why a problem becomes a problem is a complex process in which ideas and cognitive frames play a crucial role. Instead of studying the characteristics of actors participating in the agenda-setting process or the nature of the difficulties themselves – whether they are serious or mild, new or recurring, short-term or long-term – constructivist approaches concentrate on the framing of information as the crucial variable that explains why an issue makes it onto the political agenda. The aim of this chapter is to analyse the intimate, but very often implicit, relationship between constructivism and agenda setting. In the first section, the chapter presents the major claims and developments of constructivism with regard to the agenda-setting process in policy studies. In the second section, the chapter outlines the main controversies and shows how constructivism has tried to answer the limitations of other approaches in the analysis of the agenda-setting process. The third and final section develops a series of issues that might be addressed in possible research agendas, anticipating future developments.