ABSTRACT

For many of us born in the second half of the 20th century in countries where television became an ordinary feature of domestic life, watching live telecasts of sport on public and commercial terrestrial (free-to-air) broadcasters was, until very recently, a habitual leisure activity, part of the rhythm of our lives and a key source of fun, pleasure, community and, at times, common culture. In the new millennium, television continues to carry the most popular global sporting events, including the Olympic Games and the FIFA (International Federation of Football Associations) World Cup, as well as other key elements of national popular culture, into an unprecedented number of homes thanks to the emergence of new cable and satellite systems, and a host of other pay-TV services. Yet, just as these developments have radically expanded the viewing opportunities for subscribers (and fi lled the coff ers of various sports leagues, organizations, teams, and professional athletes) so, too, have they worked to undermine the longstanding ‘viewing rights’ (Rowe 2004a) of citizens irrespective of their class position or personal fi nancial circumstances. Live access to telecasts of sporting events of national cultural signifi cance in locales around the world is increasingly a matter of capacity to pay. At the same time, an array of integrated mobile technologies controlled by powerful commercial telecommunication empires can now deliver a seemingly unlimited amount of sports content for paying audiences as part of ‘integrated entertainment arenas’ that have challenged the dominance of free-to-air broadcast television as the medium of choice for the distribution and consumption of sport. In many countries, therefore, and especially those with a strong history of public service broadcasting mixed with commercial free-to-air television, there have recently been extensive policy reviews and public debates about protecting sports events of national importance and cultural signifi cance from exclusive capture by dominant, commercial pay-TV networks. That these debates have been occurring against the backdrop of the introduction of full digital services-services that are increasingly integrated into global

commercial networks-has, as many contributors to this book note, only amplifi ed their political signifi cance.