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Cultural Citizenship: Media and Sport in Contemporary Australia

Mediated sport has assumed an extraordinary position in contemporary global culture. It is enormously popular, especially when stimulated by both artful and ‘carpet bomb’ marketing and promotion. It is, correspondingly, in high commercial demand in the transition from scheduled, ‘appointment’ broadcast television to a more flexible, mobile system of on-demand viewing on multiple platforms. The ‘nowness’ of sport means that it is highly effective in assembling massive, real-time audiences in an era of increasing fragmentation both in terms of numbers and viewing rhythms. At the same time, sport routinely insinuates itself into the everyday lives of citizens in ways that are no more uniform than the people who encounter it. Even among enthusiastic participants in, and aficionados of, sport, there is considerable experiential diversity in engagement with it in mediated form. Socio-cultural variables such as age, gender, ethnicity and social class, as well as dispositions of sporting taste, are responsible for considerable differences in the practices associated with mediated sport. This article addresses current research on cultural citizenship and sport in Australia, drawing on qualitative data from Greater Western Sydney, Australia’s most demographically diverse region, in analysing the various ways in which citizens engage with sport as participants and spectators. It explores the research participants’ views concerning their rights to access ‘live’ mediated sport within a broad framework of cultural citizenship, analysing the tension between commercial and citizen relationships in the production of public culture. Finally, the article considers problems associated with such access, including with regard to the so-called ‘gamblification’ of sport.