University of Western Ontario - Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Location of Thesis Examination

Room 454 North Campus Building

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Media Studies

Supervisor

Dr. Carole Farber & Dr. Romayne Smith-Fullerton

Abstract

Sport can be the source of fitter, healthier and better lifestyles. However, sport can also be a vehicle for the reproduction of problematic notions of gender, race, nationality, industry, et cetera. If people who consume and participate in sport are unequipped to identify and question these issues, they will continue reproducing these conceptions uncritically. As a proponent of Critical Media Literacy (CML), through this dissertation I encourage educators to teach students the skills and knowledge to recognize and critically assess these and other problematic discourses in sports media. In this dissertation, I set out to discover if adolescents possess these skills and knowledge.

Two main questions drive this research: First, what type of knowledge do the participants have about the socio-cultural, political and economic implications of sport in our societies? And second, can the participants identify socio-political issues (e.g. gender, race, nationality, political economy) in sports media texts as they consume them? To answer these questions, I first attempted a study with youth and later I recruited 20 first year university students to participate in a 90 minute session where I showed them three sports clips and asked them to complete a short qualitative questionnaire and partake in a focus group discussion. Using Qualitative Content Analysis (QCA), I examined both the questionnaires and the transcripts from the discussions leading to a critical analysis.

I found that the participants had a limited knowledge of the general and critical media issues we discussed. Though the students demonstrated some understanding of the way the sports media operates, they consistently drew from stereotypes and common sense tropes when analyzing issues of race, nationality and gender in sports. I also found that students were generally unable to identify and/or critique problematic representations present in the videos. There were only 5.6% of instances where the participants questioned these problems in the clips. Most of the time (86.23%) the participants were either unaware of the issues or saw them as normal and saw no need to resist or critique. These findings support the idea that students would benefit from receiving a critical media literacy education that teaches them to identify and question hegemonic discourses in sports media.