Media and Sport: Time for Fair Play and Journalism that Makes the Public Winners

The International Federation of Journalists today opened the XXV World Congress with a Sports and Media Global Conference in Athens, eighty days before the return of the Olympics to its birthplace.

The event – “Media and Journalists – Winners of Losers in Global Sports?” – brought into the spotlight questions over public interest in a modern world dominated by advertising, sporting super-heroes, and commercial imperatives.

“Sports journalists must break lose from the ‘insider mentality’ that compromises the professional scrutiny of an industry that is increasingly a powerful force in peoples lives,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

“The globalization of sport has created wealth for many people and institutions in the sports and media world, but wider public interests are not well served by media coverage,” said White.

To challenge the state affairs, Alan Kennedy, senior editor for the Sydney Morning Herald said, “the first step should be to get some distance between us (sports journalists) and the groups on whom we’re reporting”. “The media and the world of sports are converging into one profit-making entity”.

The merging of media companies, sports organizations and sponsors has led to a serious dilemma for many sports journalists, who find themselves squeezed between the demands of an industry and a loyalty to serve the public interest.

Jens Sejer Andersen, journalist and sports campaigner asked the question why resources are expended on match reports only, and not diversified enough to cover all aspects of an industry becoming increasingly political, commercial and having a social impact.

Another issue that worried conference participants is that very few women occupy high profile positions in international sports management. This discriminatory view of women’s capabilities is combined with marketing campaigns suggesting that sport and men are synonymous. These have led to the undervalued role of women in international sport management, said Theresa Zabell Lucas, MEP, sports journalist and Olympian. Lucas highlighted the importance of Gianna Angelopoulos’ appointment as the first woman President of an Olympic Games Organising Committee.

Equality and justice is paramount in questions over the use of child labour in production of sports products across world markets, an issue which the international labour movement has been addressing in the fair play campaign.

Duncan Pruett, campaign co-ordinator, ICFTU, presented the Oxfam, Global Unions and Clean Clothes campaign which aims to bring the Olympic values of ethics and fair play to the sportswear industry.

“The huge irony is that ethics and fair play are at the centre of the Olympic ideal, and yet the global industry profiting from the global popularity of sport is making those profits by exploiting and abusing huge numbers of workers,” stressed Pruett. “That’s not ethical and that’s not fair play.”

“Fair Play will be one of the key issues at the Olympic Games and we welcome a new and balanced view of sports at the world’s premier sporting occasion,” said Fanny Palli-Petralia, Alternate Minister of Culture, Greece.

The conference agreed to drive forward the need for ‘real change’ in the current style of sports reporting so as to reflect a greater depth and global appreciation in sports journalism.

“Sport means much to the people who play and sometimes a lot more to the audience,” said White. “It is time for sports organizations and journalists to live up to the ideals of their audience and report, when appropriate, on the often darker sides of the sporting world.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries

For more information please contact Robert Shaw at +32 473 863 6600 or see IFJ World Congress