Young People and Mass Mediated Sports Events
: Consumption, Impact and Interpretation

  • Gillian Lines

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The sports media has proven itself to be of phenomenal appeal to the global audience, yet relatively little is known about the nature of this appeal, particularly to young people.

Young people within the public domain are perceived to be both vulnerable and gullible to the powerful effects of media messages. Widely expressed concern focuses upon their inability to be discerning readers of media sporting texts, and their susceptibility to imitate the amoral behaviour of their favourite sport stars.This together with health issues about young people as 'couch potatoes' makes it all the more surprising that media research in the current interpretative paradigm, has failed to adequately address young people and sport.

This investigation uses a sequential multi-method analysis that acknowledges and encompasses the complexity of the audience experience, together with a hermeneutic approach that explores differing levels of the communication process. Readings of sporting texts during the 'Summer of Sport' 1996 provided the contextual mediated sport setting in which to explore the nature of audience consumption, impact and interpretative meanings. These included the European Football Championship (Euro'96), the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships and the Atlanta Olympic Games, together with case studies on Paul Gascoigne and Tim Henman.

The case study group of 14 /15 year olds completed daily diaries during the six weeks of media coverage. This was followed by both group and individual interviews. Qualitative and quantitative data extracted from these indicated consumption patterns, the nature of the reception contexts and pleasures gained from the audience experience. Patterns of sporting activity and modes of imitation during the sportsevents were also identified.

Young peoples' opinions and recall suggested ways in which certain values, ideas and sporting moments became embedded in their consciousness. By moving between levels of analysis, reflecting upon the formal reading of the texts and the ways in which young people engaged with them, the framework provided evidence that audience thoughts reflected active and critical readings around national unity, gendered and ethnic identity, and constructions of sporting heroes.
Date of AwardAug 1999
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorProf Alan Tomlinson (Supervisor) & John Sugden (Supervisor)

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