Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Olympic broadcasting inequality: Olympics commentary differs based on gender, race and nationality

June 18, 2012
University of Delaware
Studies show Olympic Games' commentary differs based on gender, race and nationality. Athletes who are white, male and/or American receive more favorable coverage than females, non-Americans and minorities.

An examination of past Olympic Games television coverage shows notable differences in the way sports commentators talk about athletes, depending upon the athletes' races, gender and nationalities.

Related Articles

Two studies by University of Delaware professor James Angelini published this month in academic journals show particular biases. The first details differences in coverage of male and female athletes.

"It's all about luck with the females. It's all about ability with the males," said Angelini, assistant professor of communication.

The second study shows NBC disproportionately covers American athletes. While it's no surprise that NBC, the network with exclusive rights to the games in the U.S., heavily focuses on Americans, Angelini's findings show it goes far beyond national pride. NBC highlights Americans at three to four times the rate their successes would suggest.

"You see all this coverage of American athletes even when they fail and there's so little coverage of the gold, silver and bronze medal winners (in certain sports)," he said.

Angelini and his research partners record NBC's primetime coverage of each day's games on its flagship channel and code the footage based on 17 categories. The categories include athletic ability, strength, commitment to the sport, intelligence and luck. For the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, they did the same with China's CCTV coverage. This year, they'll also be screening the BBC during the London Games (July 27-Aug. 12).

"The British broadcasts will probably be a bit more balanced than the American broadcasts on NBC," Angelini said. "It won't be fully equitable, but I think it may be better."

She won a gold medal because she's pretty.

The gender-based study published in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media found:

  • When female athletes succeed, commentators tend to focus on luck and less on physical ability.
  • When female athletes fail, physical ability and commitment are noted.
  • When male athletes succeed, commentators applaud their skill and commitment to the sport.
  • When male athletes fail, it is not necessarily about their failure, but about how their competitors succeeded.
  • In 2010, 75 percent of the most-mentioned athletes were male.

That guy only won because the American's luck ran out.

The nationality study published in the International Journal of Sport Communication found:

  • When American athletes succeed, commentators were more likely to focus on their intellect, commitment and luck (both good and bad).
  • When non-American athletes failed, commentators were more likely to say they failed because they lacked the strength and skill of other athletes.
  • American athletes received enhanced comments about their outgoing/extroverted nature.
  • Non-American athletes received more comments about the size and parts of their bodies.
  • Overall, commentary about American athletes often focused more on the intangible aspects of their performances, rather than strength and skill.

Angelini's findings also included marked differences in commentators' treatment of race:

  • When discussing African-American athletes, commentators focused more on physical ability and strength.
  • Asian athletes garnered a disproportionate number of comments about intelligence.
  • When discussing white athletes, commentators were more likely to mention commitment and composure.

The danger in these skewed representations, according to Angelini, could be in their effects on viewers' perceptions. People build their belief systems about gender, races and ethnicities, based in part, by what they see on television. Sports tend to draw large audiences, particularly among young men. And, the Olympics are by far the largest sporting event worldwide. He worries about how the messaging will interplay with the audience's view of the world.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Delaware. The original article was written by Andrea Boyle Tippett. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal References:

  1. James R. Angelini, Paul J. MacArthur, Andrew C. Billings. What's The Gendered Story? Vancouver's Prime Time Olympic Glory on NBC. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 2012; 56 (2): 261 DOI: 10.1080/08838151.2012.678515
  2. James R. Angelini, Andrew C. Billings, Paul J. MacArthur. The Nationalistic Revolution Will Be Televised: The 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games on NBC. International Journal of Sport Communication, 2012 [link]

Cite This Page:

University of Delaware. "Olympic broadcasting inequality: Olympics commentary differs based on gender, race and nationality." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 June 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120618161903.htm>.
University of Delaware. (2012, June 18). Olympic broadcasting inequality: Olympics commentary differs based on gender, race and nationality. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120618161903.htm
University of Delaware. "Olympic broadcasting inequality: Olympics commentary differs based on gender, race and nationality." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120618161903.htm (accessed January 28, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Science & Society News

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Brand Blocker' Glasses Blur Ads in Real Time

'Brand Blocker' Glasses Blur Ads in Real Time

Buzz60 (Jan. 28, 2015) A team of college students design and build a pair of goggles that will obscure any corporate branding from your field of vision. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing's Profit Soars

Boeing's Profit Soars

Reuters - Business Video Online (Jan. 28, 2015) Boeing delivered more commercial planes, especially 737s and 787s, fueling profit. But it issued a mixed outlook. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Moscow Exhibition Showcases Gulag Letters

Moscow Exhibition Showcases Gulag Letters

AFP (Jan. 28, 2015) Written on cigarette packs or scraps of newspaper, embroidered with a fishbone on shreds of cloth or scratched on birch bark, clandestine letters from the Soviet Gulag were composed by any means prisoners had. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google High-Speed Service Coming to 4 Cities

Google High-Speed Service Coming to 4 Cities

AP (Jan. 28, 2015) Google is expanding its fiber-optic high-speed internet service to four cities in the Southeastern US. The company selected Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh and Nashville and their surrounding communities. (Jan. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins