The Relationship between Legacy Media and Sport

In the previous week we have discussed how the symbiotic relationship between sport and media has sedimented over the last hundred years, and especially how sports can be considered one key – or maybe the keycontent for the diffusion and adoption of different media technologies [see post here].

During this week we will focus on traditional media technologies (print and radio diffusion – radio and TV) and their relationship to sport. It is possible to argue that print, and particularly newspapers, was the first modern medium to use sport as a content. As we have seen during the past week professional sports possess some characteristics that make them ideal for attracting larger readership. Conventionally, academic research on the relationship between print media and sport has tended to focus on three big areas: who produces the content; who consumes the content; and the content itself (see Wanta, 2009 for a longer explanation).

Something in common between those three areas is that it is regularly found that this symbiotic relationship reinforces a space for male preserve (see here a discussion for the Digital Media for International Marketing module) where the content is written by men, for men, and about men. Looking at the research I have done using machine learning algorithms and a dataset containing over 14,000 news items from The Independent (UK) we can see that this is still very present in our times as only 4.2% of the total news in a given month were on women’s sport (see post here). Nevertheless, when looking at the whole 2019/2020 dataset there were peaks where coverage of women’s sport reached over 20% (see post here). And the figures are not so different when looking at another print media outlet – the BBC – where women’s sport featured only 14% of the total news (see post here).

In regards of the other two media – radio and TV – the notion of male preserve is still evident. For instance, radio is frequently referred as a narrowcast medium as its reach tends to be more regionalised especially in larger continental countries like the USA and Brazil. Moreover, it is not only the regional reach that makes radio a narrowcast medium but also the assumption that listeners are composed mostly by a certain group of men, which tends to create a space for hyper-masculine discourses to emerge (see Owen, 2009).

In regards of TV – possibly the medium we commonly associate with live professional sport – the situation is not so different as most of its content still features heavily more men than women’s sport. Moreover, it tends to favour more mainstream professional sports in its programming, which we can see when looking at the cross media promotion done by ESPN (see image below).

Categorisation of Publication based on Sport on ESPN (USA) using Machine Learning Algorithms

In a way, we always need to take the selection of what is newsworthy with a pinch of salt. As Boorstin (1962) would argue news are more of pseudo-events rather than proper events themselves. What media decide is eventful – or newsworthy – is what we come across on the different traditional media (print, radio, and TV) we tend to consume.

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