Sport media and culture: Who's calling the shots?
Sport media and culture: Who's calling the shots?

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Sport media and culture: Who's calling the shots?

2 Face off: the changing relationship between sport and the media

2.1 The historical relationship between sport and the media

We want you to look at two readings that focus on two key moments in the historical relationship between sport and the media. Take this as an opportunity to practise your note-taking skills.

Activity 2

Now read the extract [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] by Richard Holt and Tony Mason (2007), who discuss popular sports coverage in the UK from the 1960s to 2000, when the piece was written.

  • Why do they regard this era as historically significant?

  • What are the key changes?


  • Sport is part of popular culture, which is itself represented through the language of sensation and hyperbole. Significant changes took place in the 1960s, when earlier measured and constructive criticism of sport and sporting performance gave way to a new sensationalism and hyperbole, which is now commonplace.

  • Media coverage of sport is both extensive and diverse; it became particularly extensive from the 1960s, and now occupies more than 20 per cent of the Sun and the Daily Star, with banner headlines, colour and coverage of scandals.

  • The 1990s saw further developments post-Bosman, with fuller European coverage of, for example, the increase in international players.

  • New identities are constructed through the media representation of sports celebrities, the vast majority of whom are men, if largely ‘unreconstructed’ men. By the 1990s this became more polarised into ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’.

  • Another feature of change is the approach to women's sport, which became increasingly sexualised.

  • ‘Personalities’ dominated sports coverage, opening the way for the growth of the sports celebrity and demonstrating the links between sport and popular culture.

  • Sports media have to accommodate social changes, including a trend towards a reshaping of football as a sport that intellectuals (Nick Hornby, the quality press) and women could now follow.

Since this article was written, the internet has led to big changes in the ways in which people follow sport and are recruited as fans, but the unremitting march of celebrity coverage and the integration of sport into mainstream popular culture persist. The internet provides greater democracy of access and interaction as well as immediacy, although our reflections on Premiership websites suggest that sports' web pages are often dominated by commercial interests. Over the last two decades, the political economy of sport has been transformed by digital technologies and satellite television. Sport in turn has, however, proved to be the lynchpin of commercial success for many of the new media giants, given the enormous global coverage of sport, its popularity and significance seems to rise.

Activity 3

Now read the following extract from Globalization and Sport, 2001, by Toby Miller, Geoffrey Lawrence, Jim McKay and David Rowe, which reflects upon some of these large-scale intersections between sport and the global media.

Think about these questions as you read through the extract:

  • What does the media's response to Michael Jordan's retirement show about global sport and popular culture?

  • What is the importance of television in the development of modern sport?

  • What is the particular contribution of modern media technologies to the experience of sport?

  • What is the media–sport complex?

  • How are global inequalities played out in the media–sport complex?

Now read the extract 'Sports media sans frontières' by Toby Miller, Geoffrey Lawrence, Jim McKay and David Rowe.


  • The Michael Jordan example brings together three aspects of the sport–media relationship: 1 athletic excellence (individual star); 2 sponsored by Nike (commerce); 3 NBA on television (media).

  • Sport and the media developed inextricably together.

  • Sport has greatly influenced developments in world television and subsequently satellite communications and the internet.

  • Media technologies permit an experience of sport that is as near as possible to ‘being there’.

  • Sport is at the leading edge of technology.

  • The media–sport complex places media at the heart of the culture of sport; sport feeds the media and the media re-create sport and sports' stars.

  • The media are competitive, like sport.

  • The creation of national identities on the global stage may obscure differences of gender and ethnicity, and differences between various parts of the world and the power relationships in play.


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