Explaining media coverage of Constitutional Court decisions in Germany: The role of case characteristics

Recommended citation: Meyer, Philipp. Explaining media coverage of Constitutional Court decisions in Germany: The role of case characteristics. Working Paper.

Abstract
Research on the media coverage of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court has revealed that the newsworthiness of a court decision – as determined by specific case characteristics – influences the likelihood that the decision will be covered by the media. However, in the context of European constitutional courts, media coverage of court decisions can be understood to be a form of justice reporting that focuses on general public interest and is operationalized by case characteristics that indicate the newsworthiness of the decisions. Using the case of the German Federal Constitutional Court, the determining factors behind whether court decisions are featured in the German media (i.e., that they receive media coverage in at least one newspaper article) are expounded. A local text alignment measurement of court decisions and newspaper articles enables media coverage to be identified based on original data on 3,404 decisions and 9,436 newspaper articles from between 2008 and 2018. The results demonstrate that media coverage of the German Court is not affected by declarations of unconstitutionality, though coverage is more likely when a decision is accompanied by a press release, an oral hearing, a dissenting opinion, or a combination of all three items. As these decisional aspects are the prerogative of the FCC, the results demonstrate that the German Constitutional Court has the necessary instruments to independently influence media coverage.

Keywords
judicial politics; constitutional courts; political communication; newsworthiness

Status
Revise and Resubmit in Political Communication.