Sport, Media and Audiences

Autonomy and community

Authored by: David Rowe

The Routledge Companion to the Cultural Industries

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415706209
eBook ISBN: 9781315725437
Adobe ISBN: 9781317533986


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There is important but well-trodden ground that this Companion has necessarily addressed– how does an industry qualify as cultural? The debate will not be rehearsed here (cf. Redhead, this volume), except in so far as it is necessary to introduce the specific cultural form of sport and to situate it within debates about culture and the cultural industries. It has been historically common for some, especially artists and their advocates, to criticize the influence of sport on culture and creativity, complaining that it is anti-intellectual, unaesthetic, aggressive and instrumental, and that it tends to crowd out more deserving cultural pursuits both in public culture and in competition over state and corporate sponsorship (see, for example, Atherden, 2009; Thurman, 2010). This debate is part of a larger one on culture and entertainment that must be set aside here in favour of more directly relevant concerns with sport as a ‘borderline and problem case’, according to Hesmondhalgh (2013: 19–20), who singles out sport for particular attention in a manner that is worth pursuing in this context:

Sport industries such as football (soccer) and baseball arrange for the performance of live spectacles that are, in many respects, very like the live entertainment sector of the cultural industries. People pay to be entertained in real time in the co-presence of talented or not-that-talented performers. But there are notable differences, even from live entertainment in the cultural industries. Sport is fundamentally competitive, whereas symbol making isn’t. Texts (in the sense in which I use the term in this book) tend to be more scripted or scored than in sports, which are essentially improvised around a set of competitive rules.

This division of sport from ‘core cultural industries’ can be continuously canvassed, but it should be noted that football, baseball and other sport forms are not so much industries in themselves as sub sets of something that is much larger and more diverse. This industry is inseparable from the ‘media sports cultural complex’ (a concept developed out of earlier formulations by Jhally, 1984 and Maguire, 1993) that ‘embraces all the media and sports organizations, processes, personnel, services, products and texts which combine in the creation of the broad, dynamic field of contemporary sports culture’ (Rowe, 2004: 216). The synthetic notion of a complex is more appropriate than the singular concept of a sport industry because, since the second half of the twentieth century and, especially, following the widespread installation of television in the domestic sphere, it has been increasingly difficult to isolate the sport industry from the media (especially its broadcasting sub set) industry.

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