Sport media ecology series 1: Where it all began

Where it all began…

This is the first blog of a six-part series in which will have a running theme relating back to the symbiotic relationship between sport and the media. This series will also be discussing the transformations in the industry and sport landscape due to the rise of digital media.

Within the late 1800’s to the beginning of the 1900’s society was undergoing a period of urbanisation and industrialisation which influenced the publics declining personality and lack of community according to McQuail and Deuze (2020). However, this led to the media being portrayed as a “cure” to these issues by bringing people together and initiating a mass conscious among the public (McQuail and Deuze, 2020).

So, where did it all start? The media and sports have been compared to two completely different realms (Rowe, 2004). The media ecology must first be looked at in order to fully comprehend the idea of the connection between sport and the media. Lum (2000) deduces that media ecology is the study of how different types of media interact with one another, and Postman (2000) makes a similar deduction. Both authors suggest that this study of media environments relating to technological and informational factors that both influence human’s day-to-day lives. Therefore, the first step is to examine media and digital transformations independent of the sporting sector.

Print-media was the first form of mass communication, which initially was thought of as a type of education because they provided information like a library or a school (McQuail and Deuze, 2020). In addition, the popularity of the radio during the 1890s meant that people with lower literacy levels could participate and be more interested (McQuail and Deuze, 2020). The radio further evolved as a source of entertainment over time, and at the same time, live sports commentary, notably in football, was dominating radio in society (McQuail and Deuze, 2020). Because of this, it attracted sizable audiences to the radio at a time when sport and the media were becoming increasingly entwined.

Academics McQuail and Deuze (2020) assert that to address the societal problems of impersonality, loss of community, and isolation (as mentioned previously). Once more, the media was regarded as a solution, but so was sport in that it provided entertainment for the public to enjoy both individually and collectively. Seo and Green, (2008) found that sport wasn’t simply seen as just a past time; it was also seen as an activity or event to enjoy throughout the day.

Similar to this, sport and the media started to depend on one another with the advent of television in the early 1920s, indicating the start of their complex symbiotic relationship. Fans could view the game in their own environment. Because people increasingly viewed sports as social gatherings, they were consuming them digitally rather than physically flicking through printed materials to keep informed.

Finally, following the introduction of the TV, in 1983 the internet was created. Sports consumption underwent a significant change as a result. Through social media and streaming, the internet made it possible for anybody in the world—not just those in the host nation—to access sports-related information and material whenever they wanted for instance, 55% of internet users check sports scores online (Fallows, 2004).


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