Where it all began: Mass Media and Sports Historic Relationship  

As we begin to explore sport and the past media ecology, it’s necessary to understand the clear meaning of what media ecology is. Scolari (2012, pp.205) defines media ecology as “find what roles media forces us to play, how media structure what we are seeing or thinking, and why media makes us feel and act as we do”. Rowe (2004) believed sport and media two be two different worlds as we can see how sport traditionally was physically focused; whereby media didn’t share these same attributes.

However, over the last 100 years, its been seen how sports and the media have depended on the symbiotic relationship they share (Rowe, 2004). Here we can see why it’s important to understand the relationship that occurred at the very start. Rowe (2013) suggested that historically many sports would have to remain segmented and localised if it wasn’t for the traditional media, however (Rowe, 2004) correspondingly saw how sports carried many qualities that the media could benefit from.

The 4 key take-off points demonstrate the developments that have occurred within mass media over the past years which can be identified in correlation to the role sport has played.

  • Stage 1 – Printing Press (1450’s)  – The first form of mass media was introduced in the 1450s after the introduction of the Gutenberg Press, a newspaper (Fussel, 2020). As the cost of printing was seen as low cost, this made it very accessible to many, meaning newspapers were very popular (Rowe, 2004). Behringer (2009) identified how sports were regularly promoted within the articles from jousting and tilting (popular historical sports) to football and more modern-day sports being introduced and printed into the papers in the 1800s.
  • Stage 2 – Radio (1890‘s) – In 1895 the first development of the radio was introduced by Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, with the world changing with the invention of the radio as people rushed to purchase them (Briggs, 2011). During the 1920s we saw a global development where the radio began to broadcast sports converge, with a lightweight boxing match being the first to be broadcasted on American radio stations on the 11th of April 1921 (Huggins, 2007). Here it can be seen how consumers were given the opportunity to consume live sports for the very first time through media.
  • Stage 3 – Television (1920’s) – The broadcasting of sports through the television soon followed the radio, where consumers were now able to view sports through lives pictures on an international scale, instead of listening to the commentary on the radio (Whannel, 2009). However, the outbreak of the war in Britain in 1939 cause a suspension and was brought back in 1946 with the London Olympic games being broadcasted in 1948 (Whannel, 2009).
  • Stage 4 – Digital Media (1980’s) – In the 1980’s we saw the conversion that saw the introduction of the World Wide Web, whereby multiple platforms and channels were created that led to sports being able to be viewed in multiple means (Balbi, & Magaudda, 2018). This can be seen from live sports broadcasting to the introduction of social media platforms that have allowed sports consumers to consume sports in a whole new way.

In the next blog we will be looking into the present media by discussing the concepts of traditional and new media.


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