Legitimizing state ownership and government action

Annual reporting of the Finnish state’s ownership steering

  • Merja Koskela University of Vaasa, Communication Studies
  • Mona Enell-Nilsson
Keywords: state owned enterprises, legitimation, annual report

Abstract

In Finland, as well as in many other countries, the government annually submits a comprehensive report on the activities of state-owned companies to the parliament; the annual report of state ownership steering. This report comprises approximately one hundred pages of text, and typically summarizes the results of each state-owned company on one page. The report can be compared to private companies' annual reports in the respect that it is prepared annually and describes the results of operations in financial terms. However, the document has a unique character, as in addition to reporting financial results, it is intended to create trust and legitimize the state's role as owner.

This paper presents a study of the legitimation strategies of state’s ownership in the letter from the responsible Minister, called “A word from the Minister” or “Preface by the Minister”, presented in the Finnish annual reports of state’s ownership steering for the years 2007–2016. The Minister’s letter is placed in the annual report where the CEO’s letter normally appears in private companies’ annual reports (see e.g. Nickerson & De Groot 2005). In the text, the Minister summarizes the past year and highlights selected aspects both in terms of companies' operations and state’s ownership. The aim of the study is to analyze how state’s ownership in general and the government’s actions during its ruling period in particular are legitimized by the Minister in the report. This is interesting because state-ownership is a topic of constant ideological debates, and each government has its own goals for it (see also Rahm et al. 2019).

Methodologically the analysis is based on Van Leeuwen's (2007) classification of legitimation strategies. The analysis of the text material is supplemented with aspects concerning legitimation from a data collected through interviews (3) with government employees involved in the preparation of the annual report (see Koskela 2020). In addition, comparisons are made with corresponding Swedish text and interview material to shed light on specific Finnish features.

The study is part of the project RegeRa - Governments report on state’s ownership carried out at the University of Vaasa. The project is a collaboration between researchers at Lund University and at the University of Vaasa. The purpose of the project is to analyze and compare the reporting of state’s ownership in Sweden and Finland.

 

References

Koskela, M. (2020). Institutionaalista tekstilajia laatimassa – Valtionhallinnon henkilöstön näkemyksiä vuosikertomuksen synnystä. VAKKI Publications 12, Workplace Communication III, 32-45.

Nickerson, C. & De Groot, E. (2005). Dear shareholder, dear stockholder. Dear stakeholder: the business genre in the annual general report. In: Gillaerts, P., Gotti, M. (Eds.), Genre Variation in Business Letters, 324-346. Peter Lang AG, Bern.

Rahm, H., Skärlund, S., & Svensson, P. (2019). Monopolets moral: de nordiska alkoholmonopolens legitimeringsarbete – The Moral of the Monopoly: Legitimation Work in the Nordic Alcohol Monopolies. Sakprosa, 11(2).

Van Leeuwen, T. (2007). Legitimation in discourse and communication. Discourse & communication, 1(1), 91-112.

References

Koskela, M. (2020). Institutionaalista tekstilajia laatimassa – Valtionhallinnon henkilöstön näkemyksiä vuosikertomuksen synnystä. VAKKI Publications 12, Workplace Communication III, 32-45.

Nickerson, C. & De Groot, E. (2005). Dear shareholder, dear stockholder. Dear stakeholder: the business genre in the annual general report. In: Gillaerts, P., Gotti, M. (Eds.), Genre Variation in Business Letters, 324-346. Peter Lang AG, Bern.

Rahm, H., Skärlund, S., & Svensson, P. (2019). Monopolets moral: de nordiska alkoholmonopolens legitimeringsarbete – The Moral of the Monopoly: Legitimation Work in the Nordic Alcohol Monopolies. Sakprosa, 11(2).

Van Leeuwen, T. (2007). Legitimation in discourse and communication. Discourse & communication, 1(1), 91-112.
Published
2022-08-10
Section
6.4 Organizational and Strategic Communication