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Ethical implications of the mediatization of organizations

Michael Litschka (University of Applied Sciences St Pölten, St Pölten, Austria)
Matthias Karmasin (University of Klagenfurt, Klagenfurt, Austria)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 23 November 2012




The aim of this paper is to give theoretical and empirical arguments for new forms of communication and structure of organizations within the media and information society. Organizations must legitimate their “licence to operate” through social discourses and stakeholder communication. Possibilities to institutionalize ethics within organizations and possible barriers to such a programme are analysed.


First, some theoretical arguments as to why mediatisation challenges organizations to prove ethical commitment are depicted, using a rights‐based and social contract approach. Second, empirical examples for structural and communicational barriers in Austrian companies show possible practical constraints.


Theoretical findings refer to the usefulness of applying business ethical models (especially rights‐based, and social contract models) to reorganize mediatised organizations. Empirical findings concern the lack of institutionalized ethics management in companies and the corresponding problem of “PR‐style” communication instead of stakeholder discourses.

Research limitations/implications

The research reported in one section of the paper relies on the qualitative survey of 14 experts in different branches of the Austrian economy. While interviews can give a picture on how respondents understand the relevant research question and construct the respective reality, they are far from providing a representative picture of communicative ethical problems in mediatised organizations.

Practical implications

Practical consequences should be possible, if companies understand the mediatised and communicative nature of their relationship with society and stakeholders and therefore react to that challenge by building up reputation through ethics management.


The paper gives new insights to the important relationship between organizations and the public and shows how, e.g. enterprises can legitimate their business models and secure their long‐term existence. New empirical research concerns cases from Austrian companies.



Litschka, M. and Karmasin, M. (2012), "Ethical implications of the mediatization of organizations", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 222-239.



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