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Discursive framing in private and public communication by pro-nuclear corporate, political and regulatory actors following the Fukushima disaster

Annika Beelitz (Bangor Business School, Bangor University, Bangor, UK)
Doris M. Merkl-Davies (Bangor Business School, Bangor University, Bangor, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 5 August 2019

Issue publication date: 8 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine a case of companies cooperating with the State to prevent a public controversy over nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster and achieve mutually beneficial policy outcomes. It analyses the private and public communication of pro-nuclear corporate, political and regulatory actors.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on the political economy theory, the study examines how actors mobilised power by accessing an existing social network to agree a joint public communication strategy in order to ensure public support for the continuation of nuclear power generation in the UK. It traces discursive frames from their inception in private communication to their reproduction in public communication and their dissemination via the media.

Findings

The study provides evidence of pro-nuclear actors cooperating behind the scenes to achieve consistent public pro-nuclear messaging. It finds evidence of four discursive frames: avoiding knee-jerk reactions, lessons learned, safety and nuclear renaissance. In combination, they guide audiences’ evaluation of the consequences of the Fukushima disaster for the UK in favour of continuing the commercial use of nuclear energy.

Originality/value

The private e-mail exchange between pro-nuclear actors presents a unique opportunity to examine the mobilisation of less visible forms of power in the form of agenda setting (manipulation) and discursive framing (domination) in order to influence policy outcomes and shape public opinion on nuclear energy. This is problematic because it constitutes a lack of transparency and accountability on part of the State with respect to policy outcomes and restricts the civic space by curtailing the articulation of alternative interests and voices.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the conference participants at the 12th Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting Conference in Edinburgh 11-13 July 2018 for their insightful comments. The authors are particularly grateful to Marian Gatzweiler for his constructive feedback in his role as discussant of the paper. The authors are also indebted to Niamh Brennan for her perceptive comments on earlier versions of the paper. Finally, the authors would like to thank the three anonymous referees for their detailed and helpful comments, which have helped the authors to develop the theoretical framework of the paper and situate it in the prior literature.

Citation

Beelitz, A. and Merkl-Davies, D.M. (2019), "Discursive framing in private and public communication by pro-nuclear corporate, political and regulatory actors following the Fukushima disaster", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 1585-1614. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-05-2017-2928

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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