Actors (Media policy/ Meta journalism)




self-coverage, media policy, intermediaries, opportune testimonies, news bias


The variable “actors” records individuals or collectives, who appear as a source for assertions of facts and evaluations and whose actions, interests or demands are addressed in an article (Hillebrand, 2005). In the case of media self-coverage, and especially when dealing with media policy issues, media organizations themselves might be affected by them. Hence, media organizations may strategically use their privileged access to the public to promote their own interests, for example by selecting actors and positions that will be publicly heard. Several studies have found a predominance of “opportune actors” and experts representing a position that supports media organization’s own interests (Kemner, Scherer, & Weinacht, 2008; Lichtenstein, 2011; Maier & Dogruel, 2016).


Field of application/theoretical foundation

The variable serves to identify the actors involved in specific media discourses and can serve as an indicator for attempted influence by media organizations through biased selection.


Example studies

Hillebrand, 2005; Pedrazzi, 2020


Information on Pedrazzi, 2020

Research interest: Pedrazzi (2020) investigates Swiss media coverage of media policy, public service in general and the Swiss public service organization SRG SSR in the context of the referendum on the revision of the Federal Act on Radio and Television (RTVA) in 2015 and the No-Billag initiative in 2018.

Object of analysis: Representative samples of articles covering each the revision of the RTVA and the No-Billag initiative in twelve regional and national Swiss German print and online publications with different ownership.

Time frame of analysis: January 1, 2010 to March 4, 2018


Information about variable

Level of analysis: article

Operationalization/Coding instructions:

“The main actor and the two most important secondary actors mentioned in the article and who speak directly or indirectly on media policy issues, i.e. either on one of the proposals (revision of RTVA and/or No-Billag initiative) and its consequences, on the subject of public service, on Swiss public service organization SRG SSR or on the media market, are recorded. However, if an actor is only mentioned - without an explanation of his/her views - he/she is not coded.

The main actor is the one who is presented as central in the title, subtitle and/or lead. The title, subtitle (if available) and lead are the first criteria for the assignment. If several actors appear in the same text subunit, the order is decisive. If no clear assignment can be made due to title/subtitle/lead, the entire contribution is used. The main actor is then the most extensively presented actor in terms of volume.

The most important secondary actor is determined according to the same criteria as the main actor (if the main actor is not taken into account). The second most important secondary actor is determined according to the same criteria as the main actor (if the main actor and the most important secondary actor are not considered).

The journalist can also be coded as an actor if he/she reveals his/her opinion. In the case of commentaries/columns, the author counts as the main actor. In the case of interviews, the interviewee counts as the main actor, but not the journalist.”


Pedrazzi (2020)


Government, administration, parliament or courts as a body or institution and/or individual representatives of the executive, legislative or judiciary system (however, not individual politicians speaking for themselves or their party)


Federal Council

Federal Council as a whole or individual members

Federal departments, authorities and commissions

Departments (e.g. DETEC), federal offices (e.g. OFCOM) authorities and commissions (e.g. ComCom) and their representatives

National Council and Council of States

Parliament or commissions, including commission presidents or spokespersons when acting in this capacity. Note: Individual parliamentarians must be coded as members of their parties.

Cantonal government

Cantonal Government as a whole or individual members acting in this capacity

Cantonal administration

Cantonal administration and their representatives

Cantonal parliament

Cantonal parliaments


Members of the municipal council, administration, etc.)


Federal court / cantonal court / district court etc. as well as judges acting in their function

Other bodies or institutions of the government, administration, parliament or justice


Parties and party representatives (incl. party subsections)


BDP, Bürgerlich-Demokratische Partei


Junge BDP


CVP, Christlich-demokratische Volkspartei (inkl. CSP)


Junge CVP


EVP, Evangelische Volkspartei


Junge EVP


FDP, die Liberalen (inkl. LPS/Liberale Partei der Schweiz)




GLP, Grünliberale Partei


Junge Grünliberale


GPS, Grüne Partei der Schweiz


Junge Grüne


SP, Sozialdemokratische Partei




SVP, Schweizerische Volkspartei


Junge SVP


Lega dei Ticinesi


Mouvement Citoyens Romand




Other parties


Initiative, referendum and counter committees


Referendum Committee against the revision of the RTVG


Committee "Ja zum RTVG"


Committee "Nein zur neuen Billag-Mediensteuer"


Initiative Committee No Billag

incl. Olivier Kessler

Committee "NEIN zu No-Billag"


Committee "Nein zum Sendeschluss"


Other initiative, referendum and counter committees


Media, telecommunications and advertising companies and their representatives (incl. owners, editors)



incl. SRF, RTS, RSI, RTR

NZZ Mediengruppe

incl. Radio FM1, TVO, Tele 1, Radio Pilatus, etc.




incl. Radio NRJ

AZ Medien

incl. Radio Argovia, Radio 24, Radio 32, Tele M1, Tele Züri, Tele Bärn, etc.


incl. Radio Südostschweiz, Tele Südostschweiz, etc.

Basler Zeitung Medien


3+ Gruppe


ProSieben Sat.1 Gruppe


RTL Gruppe




UPC Cablecom








Goldbach Medien


Other private media companies


Media associations and their representatives


Verband Schweizer Medien – Médias Suisses – Stampa Svizzera


VSP - Verband Schweizer Privatradios


RRR - Radio Régionales Romandes


Unikom – Union nicht-kommerzorientierter Lokalradios


Telesuisse - Verband der Schweizer Regionalsender


impressum – Schweizer JournalistInnen




SSM – Schweizer Syndikat Medienschaffender






Schweizer Werbung – Publicité Suisse – Publicità Svizzera


Other media associations


Other associations (economic, cultural, civil society, etc.)




Schweizerischer Gewerbeverband


Schweizerischer Arbeitgeberverband


avenir suisse


Schweizerischer Gewerkschaftsbund


Kaufmännischer Verband KV Schweiz


Travail Suisse


Stiftung für Konsumentenschutz




Fédération romande des consommateurs


Associazione consumatrici della Svizzera italiana


Think tanks


Cultural associations

Incl. film and music professionals

Sports associations


Civil society organizations and associations


Other associations


Other economic or socio-cultural actors


Industry experts



not operating in the media, telecommunications or advertising industry

Science, research



From sports, culture, show business, etc.

Members of the audience (viewers, readers, users) or simple citizens (without representative function)


Author (in case of op-ed articles)


Other actors



Intercoder reliability: Intercoder reliability (Krippendorff’s Alpha) coefficient of .77 across categories (9 coders)

Codebook available at (last accessed on 09.12.2020): 


Information on Hillebrand, 2005

Research interest: Hillebrand (2005) examines how print media outlets report on television (which content, actors, concerns and ways of addressing issues dominate in the coverage and to what extent it includes criticism).Object of analysis: Purposive sample (four times two weeks around media-relevant events) of articles containing a reference to television in six national daily newspapers, two national weekly newspapers, three television magazines and two media trade journals from Germany.

Time frame of analysis: August 1, 2002 to July 31, 2003

Information about variable

Level of analysis: article

Operationalization/Coding instructions:

Hillebrand (2005, Anhang A, own translation):“Coding is intended to record the actors, sources and witnesses appearing in the article. A main actor and a secondary actor (if applicable) are coded.Main actor: Who is at the center of the article? Whose actions or statements, interests or preferences are at the core of the article? Who takes up the most space? Whose actions or statements form the reference point to which others then react? Who appears as the ‘source’ for statements of facts or for evaluations?The author(s) of an article are not considered as actors! This also applies in cases where TV celebrities such as Kalkofe (TV-Spielfilm) or Beckmann (Zeit) have permanent columns. As actor is recorded the person or collective, who is reported on, whose actions are commented on, etc.Secondary actor: Who else is it about? Same codes to be used as for the main actor.”


Hillebrand (2005)

Members of the audience (viewers, readers, users), participants, simple citizens (without representative function)

Media companies, media executives, journalists, celebrities of the media industry

Politicians and all members of the executive and judiciary system

Companies (outside the media industry)

Interest groups (of companies or professions outside the media industry, e.g. from the environmental sector, etc.), churches, etc.

Interest groups (of companies or professions outside the media industry, e.g. from the environmental sector, etc.), churches, etc.

Science, experts, interpreters (writers etc.) - from research and scientific institutions or as self-employed, formally independent from companies, political parties and interest groups


No secondary actor/not decidable

Intercoder reliability: Intercoder reliability coefficient of .84 across categories (4 coders), not specified for individual categoryCodebook available at (last accessed on 09.12.2020):


Hillebrand, C. (2005). Das Fernsehen im Spiegel der Printmedien – Konturen der Berichterstattung. In R. Weiß (Ed.), Zur Kritik der Medienkritik. Wie Zeitungen das Fernsehen beobachten (pp. 33-81). Berlin: Vistas.

Kemner, B., Scherer, H., & Weinacht, S. (2008). Unter der Tarnkappe. Publizistik, 53(1), 65-84. doi:10.1007/s11616-008-0006-9Lichtenstein, D. (2011). Kommerzialisierung des Medienjournalismus? Eine empirische Untersuchung zum „Fall Berliner Zeitung“. M&K Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, 59(2), 216-234.

Maier, D., & Dogruel, L. (2016). Akteursbeziehungen in der Zeitungsberichterstattung über die Online-Aktivitäten des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks. Publizistik, 61(2), 145-166. doi:10.1007/s11616-016-0258-8

Pedrazzi, S. (2020). Codebuch zur Studie «Eigeninteressen in der Berichterstattung über medienpolitische Vorlagen und den Service public in der Schweiz». Zenodo. doi:10.5281/zenodo.4312912



How to Cite

Pedrazzi, S. (2021). Actors (Media policy/ Meta journalism). DOCA - Database of Variables for Content Analysis, 1(2).



News/Journalism: Variables for Content Analysis