In exploring the relationship between media and society, a relevant question includes the media are an agent of social change or a reinforcer of the status quo (Glasser, 2007; Rosengren, 1981). In the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the media serves as an ideological apparatus utilized by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to maintain political and social control. Since its founding in 1949, the PRC has emphasized the role of elite female athletes in the maintenance of the CCP’s ideological dominance by inspiring nationalist sentiment. Parallel to this has been the use of an authoritarian media model, characterized by Party propaganda, where the CCP maintained strict control over the media. From 1978 onward, however, economic reforms stimulated the marketization and commercialization of the media in China. The influence of the market is hypothesized to diminish the control of the CCP over the media and show indicators of a transition to a liberal market-based media model. As a subgroup of women in China, elite female athletes’ representation has yet to be examined within the transitional media theory model. Though literature on the representation of female athletes in Western countries indicates female athletes are objectified and sexualized in the liberal market-based media model, there is no research on elite female athletes in China, a knowledge gap this thesis aims to begin to fill. A case study of China will be presented by drawing together several bodies of literature to examine female athletes in China. In addition, a pilot study content analysis was conducted on the newspaper representation of elite Chinese female athletes to test and potentially extend transitional media theory.. The findings in this thesis suggest that transitional media theory does not currently account for the continuing representation of elite Chinese female and the CCP continues to maintain control of the newspaper media, despite the market forces taking hold in China. Instead, the growth in commercialization may not signal the end of the Party’s ideological domination due to the incorporation of the market, but a shift in the Party’s ideological framework, leading to more subtle forms of ideological domination. This thesis will argue that one of these subtle forms is enacted through the sport/media complex and the continuing use of elite female athletes to maintain the Party’s ideological hegemony by inspiring nationalist sentiment.
University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. May 2015. Major: Kinesiology. Advisors: Jo Ann Buysse, Nicole LaVoi. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 122 pages.
Party or Market? Applying transitional media theory to the Chinese newspaper representations of elite Chinese female athletes from 1949-2012.
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