This is an excerpt from an article that I co-wrote with my master of sport management supervisors and was published in Sport Management Review in February 2012.
The authors are:
Olan Kees Martin Scott – University of Ballarat
Brad Hill & Dwight H. Zakus – Griffith University
I have only included the abstract, introduction, and implications.
The full reference in APA format is:
Scott, O. K. M., Hill, B., & Zakus, D. (2012). When the home team is not featured: Comparison of commentary between two television networks’ broadcast of the 2006 FIFA World Football Cup. Sport Management Review, 15(1), 23-32. doi: 10.1016/j.smr.2011.05.003
Broadcast commentary of sport contests is often seen as biased or ‘‘one-eyed’’ for the ‘‘home team’’. This study sought to determine if this labelling was correct. Two different broadcasts of the national Dutch team’s games during the 2006 Federation Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) World Cup in Germany were compared. Both the Dutch Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS) and Australian Special Broadcast Services (SBS) networks each televised this team’s matches, together providing eight matches for analysis. First, the framing strategies used by each broadcaster were identified through a fourteen category thematic scale derived from the data. Secondly, a Chi-square analysis of the results revealed significant associations for the types of themes employed by the home network (NOS) and those of a neutral broadcaster (SBS). Results also revealed associations for the use of nationalistic themes in the commentary. These results have salience for sport management and sport media studies as audience size and therefore revenue generation is of import.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the sport media relationship has constantly evolved. From simple printed game reports to the current interactive, on-demand electronic formats sport and media have become dependent on one another for success; what Jhally (2006) labelled the sport-media complex. The symbiotic relationship between these two institutions generates a large portion of the revenues necessary for each aspect of the complex to survive financially (Rowe, 1996, 2008), among other ways, as revenues are predominantly achieved through audience creation and through sponsorship. Interwoven within this relationship, however, was the media’s ability to effect cultures and societies through the mediation of the audiences’ consciousness. It is through the use of intentionally scripted ‘‘frames’’ (Eastman, Brown, & Kovatch, 1996) that this occurs. Moments of televised sport, such as the ‘‘black power’’ protest salute by American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, are regarded as ‘‘a moment that would have heavy consequences for all it chose to represent’’ (Bass, 1999, p. 3).
The ability of commentators to culturally influence perceptions of television audiences is related to embedding of framed themes into network broadcasts scripts that often include topics that appeal and seek to maintain viewer interest. A key theme typically employed by networks was the ideological use of nationalism (Guo, Cheong, & Chen, 2007; L’Etang, 2006). The use of nationalism in media broadcasts allowed networks to connect with audiences through dialogue that promotes a viewer’s home nation. The use of scripted dialogue in commentary of mega-events using nationalism to capture television audiences was logical as networks typically focus broadcasts on aspects of an event that involved their home country (Larson & Rivenburgh, 1991). Through their participation in the Olympic Games numerous countries obtained abundant ‘‘home country’’ content that is used to align sport competitions to their respective national audiences.
Yet, as a global media mega-event, the format of the FIFA World Football Cup is limited in terms of the number of participating nations; only 32 nations compete in this event. As a result, many networks holding national broadcast rights do not have home country content to telecast. Even so, these networks still have to generate television audiences to obtain revenues to cover costs of their broadcast fees, production, and to enhance their own investments.
Such restrictions on ‘‘home team’’ content demands that many networks have to differently frame their broadcasts to generate audiences. This study sought to understand how two national television networks framed their broadcasts of the Netherlands’ 2006 World Cup matches to their respective home audiences; particularly, in this case, when one network’s broadcasts did not involve their own national team. While understanding how broadcast content is scripted is worthy of study in its own right, this study included a focus on: how broadcasts not including a ‘‘home team’’, thereby reducing the use of nationalistic themes, were scripted; how thematic cross-cultural mapping occurs; and whether or not scripts served a purpose in such broadcasts. This study examined all of the games of the 2006 World Cup that the Netherlands played, cataloguing and contrasting the discourses used by two television networks broadcasting these same matches to their respective nations. Differences in discourse by Netherlands’ NOS and Australia’s SBS television networks allowed nationalistic biases to be identified. In addition, quantitative comparisons were made both within and between broadcasters, allowing for cross-cultural and linguistic differences to be revealed.
Even though it was expected that networks broadcasting home country content such as NOS would use nationalistic themes, what was not expected was the use of nationalistic themes from countries competing in that broadcast by the SBS network. Typically, broadcasters rely on the use of home country content from sport events to connect to their home audiences. This finding that SBS used nationalistic themes of Dutch history and Dutch fans ritualistic celebration in commentary significantly more than NOS network to connect to their Australian audiences was surprising. In fact, these findings are counterintuitive as it is expected that Dutch commentary would favour the use of their history and their fans’ ritualistic celebration and not SBS. Dutch fan support at matches, with their flag waving and wearing of the Dutch colour orange, should be an important theme to promote in capturing, building, and maintaining Dutch television audiences. Yet, SBS commentary focused on the use of theses themes significantly more than NOS.
Inspection of language in themes of Dutch history and ritualistic celebration used in SBS commentary reveals Dutch history is educational, while ritualistic celebration appears as educational, descriptive, and emotive in nature. Most SBS commentary was additional to the actual visual imagery of ritualistic celebration being pointed out and focussed on by the commentators at various moments in the broadcast. This style of commentary broadens the scope of material broadcast in attempts to appeal to multiple viewers and maintain audience reach. Providing educational, descriptive, and emotive material that is additional to the visual imagery of the football match allows the commentary to cater for audiences who may not be interested in the game itself, but are attracted by the content about the countries, spectators, and other non-game related elements.
Reference to Dutch crowd support in SBS commentary, even though not promoting nationalism toward Australia, may elicit just such an emotional attachment between spectators and viewers, increasing entertainment value and enabling SBS to better capture and maintain audience interest. Tzanelli (2006) indicated that displays of ritualistic celebration broadcast at major sport events were attempts to stimulate passion and emotion in viewers connecting them to broadcasts and to sports. Highlighting the passionate support Dutch fans displayed toward their country and making reference to their ritualistic celebration within SBS commentary might also have been an attempt to assist in the enculturation process of football/soccer in Australia. Focusing on the ritualistic celebration of Dutch fans in SBS commentary might have been a tactic to positively influence the knowledge, belief, and value structure of Australian sport consumers to aid their adoption of football/soccer.
Billings and Tambosi (2004) noted that commentators have the ability to ‘‘culturally influence perceptions’’ (p. 163) of television audiences. The focus on ritualistic celebration by SBS broadcasts suggests that this may have been the case. SBS commentators might have taken the opportunity for not being able to broadcast home country content to influence cultural perceptions of viewers about football/soccer in Australia as stereotypes or beliefs held within these viewers’ minds would be limited with respect to the Dutch and their opposition teams. In this way SBS broadcasts promoted areas of interest they felt would better connect audiences to their broadcast content and at the same time advertise the entertaining and exciting elements of this sport encouraging viewers to increase their involvement.
When little if any home country content is available for networks to broadcast, it appears they use telecasts as a promotional platform for other regular prime-time programming which, is consistent with findings from Billings, Eastman, and Newton (1998). In attempts by SBS to both build and maintain audiences for the month in which the World Cup was shown, references to Australia and its football team the Socceroos were made during commentator discourse of broadcasts.
With a heightened focus on football in Australia and higher viewer numbers watching, SBS was provided an opportunity to also increase ratings for its other programs that it more regularly airs, along with the football programs. However, what was not expected was the limited frequency of use of this theme and the manner in which it was employed. Inspection of dialogue revealed that SBS used this theme primarily to promote upcoming matches involving the Australian team. No comparisons were made within commentary for the Australian Socceroos football team and Dutch team being shown, which limited the possibility for any discussion of a nationalistic nature. Even more interesting is the lack of reference to the Australian team’s coach during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Guus Hiddink, who is Dutch. Thus, SBS did not frame telecasts involving the Dutch team and their opponents with analysis of the Australian football team. Telecasts of sport events are more than sight and sound with themes used in scripting and framing the ‘‘glue’’ that provides entertaining theatre keeping audiences watching no matter their interest level in that sport. Understanding that media commentator’s use various key themes in their broadcasts dependant upon their audience can assist sport managers to develop or maintain relationships with networks. Sport managers can assist networks to identify these various relevant themes for their market ensuring networks are continually provided with content that will create large audience size and revenue generation.