No. 5, Fall/Winter2000

Special Issue:
The Arab World

Issue 5 home page
Return to current issue
Return to Archives main page


David Rowe (1999). "Sport, Culture and the Media." Buckingham: Open University Press. 193 pp. ISBN 0335202020 (pbk) 0335202039 (hbk).

Reviewed by Brad Hill, School of Marketing and Management, Griffith University, Australia

This is a thoroughly researched and interestingly work that gives readers a deeper understanding of the role and impact of sport media within the wider society. Numerous examples are used to support and demonstrate the author's argument for the cultural power of sport media. Rowe not only illustrates the culture within sport media but also elicits the connection between all of us in our everyday life and the "media sports cultural complexity."

The book is divided into two parts. In part one, "Making Media Sport," Rowe discusses the impact of meanings derived from media sport through cultural industries, which support wider economic and social formations such as the "informational economy and the media-sports gender-order." In part two, "Unmaking the Media Sports Text," Rowe analyses the production, properties, and use of media sports text among various media forms such as sports writing, still photography, television, film, news commentary, and sports commentary to demonstrate the connection between sport's producers and audiences.

The opening two chapters provide a useful historical and sociological summary of the relationship between sport and media. This provides a platform for understanding the development of media sports text, and how sport and media have come to be mutually dependent upon one another in order to manifest content and attract an audience. By discussing themes of media power, the reproduction of ideologies of dominance and the position of sports media in contemporary culture, Rowe is amply able to demonstrate and provide understanding for the reader of the connection between the environment in which media sports text are constructed and the meanings and ideologies that are derived.

Chapter 3 examines critically the power of sports journalism within the context of class, status and economics. Rowe points out that a variance exists between the status of the sports journalist and the large audience that sport attracts. He argues that this variance in status and the lower regard for the sports journalist has impacted upon the delivery of media sport texts as they are not subject to the "same scrutiny, rigor and editorial correction" that occurs within other sections of journalism. Rowe rightly suggests that society is much attracted to media sports text as these have become an important factor within the lives of many people. However, at the same time, these same people have become uneasy with the commercialization that drives sport and media. In Chapter 4 Rowe extends this argument by discussing the role media plays as the driving economic and cultural force in attracting capital, which in turn is used to create and disseminate images and information, which again is used to generate even more capital. Rowe argues that sports media attracts cultural power but that with this power ought to come political responsibility.

The use of sports images is examined first through still photography in Chapter 6 and then through television in Chapter 7. Rowe demonstrates quite convincingly that issues of "visibility and invisibility and images of domination and subordination are central to the reading of the media sports text." These issues are made central by the media because the genre of sports photographs can be linked to specific viewerships, ideologies, myths, and other texts in a way that makes sports photographs important components of contemporary culture. Similar to still photography, Rowe argues that the electronic media is able to make what appears on screen connect with other cultural and social phenomena in a variety of ways. The televising of live sport, it is argued, "has joined many other mediated cultural forms in being overwhelmed by a (post) culture of fragmentation, pastiche and promiscuous borrowing from any style or genre at hand," e.g., soap operas or the similarity of watching the Olympics on television and pop music channels such as MTV. Somewhat questionably Rowe elicits the abilities of television to be used as a medium to handle social issues by demonstrating that fictional sports are represented by moral tales where sport is a metaphor for life and life is a metaphor for sport.

The concluding chapter, "Afterword: Sport in the Ether(net): New Technologies, New Consumers," takes a incisive look at the relationships between sport media institutions, sport producers, and those who consume sport. He indicates that media sports are formed from and in conjunction with broad social patterns and structures such as class, gender, and race/ethnicity. Rowe demonstrates amply that media have considerable impact on sport and that sports media are a key component within contemporary culture. Thus, all in all, this is an extremely thought-provoking work which provides an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the role, influence, and impact of media sports. TBS

Copyright 2000 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
TBS is published by the Adham Center for Television Journalism, the American University in Cairo