Sport and media policy
The relationship between sport and the media is a significant arena of government policy and arguably subject to more government intervention than other facets of sport. Government policies in the arenas of elite development or participation, for example, often seek to ensure an outcome that is directly related to the performance of a sport organization (such as a national governing body or a community sport organization). Ensuring that a sport, such as rowing or cycling, achieves more Olympic gold medals or attracts more grass-roots participants is typically achieved by improving the systems, human resources, training, facilities or talent identification processes. The policies, in the form of increased financial assistance or the requirement to develop ‘whole sport plans’, for example, are focused directly on sport organizations and their operations. By contrast, government policy in the sport media arena is typically focused on ensuring outcomes that sport organizations can either facilitate or hinder, but that relate very little to their daily practices and processes. These issues will be discussed in greater detail below, but the example of listed events1 will serve to provide context. By listing events that are unable to be broadcast exclusively on pay or cable television, governments seek to ensure access to a specific form of entertainment for the majority of the population. This policy restricts the commercial activities of a sport organization seeking to sell its product in the marketplace, yet the activities of the sport organization are only of relevance to the government in terms of the indirect impact on its citizens. The importance of sport to both the modern media industry and consumers has resulted in government seeking to implement policies and regulation across four major areas of the sport media relationship. First, government regulation attempts to prevent the broadcast rights to sport events migrating exclusively from free-to-air television to pay or subscription television. Second, governments have developed regulatory policy aimed at ensuring that sport and media organizations do not engage in anti-competitive behaviour in the buying and selling of these broadcast rights. Such behaviour can lead to monopolies being created that will necessarily restrict supply, which in turn will raise prices to a level that will exploit consumers (New and LeGrand, 1999). Third, governments regulate to prohibit certain types of advertising being associated with sports broadcasting, such as tobacco advertising. Finally, government regulation attempts to limit or prevent any negative consequences of the vertical integration of the
sport and media industries, such as the purchase of a sport team or league by a media organization. This chapter examines each of these policy areas, drawing on examples from a number of countries, in order to identify the reasons cited by government for undertaking such direct intervention in regulating the relationship between sport and the media, to identify whether sport is central to determining the nature and extent of such interventions, the variety of regulatory instruments used, and to make some assessment of their impact on sport.