Risky Business: The Rise and Fall of WTSN and the Commercial Representation of Women's Sport in Canada

Nicole Neverson
Sociology, McMaster University
June, 2008
 

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation is to better understand the relationship between political economy, cultural policy, and the strategies employed in attempts to address representational deficits in the media. While broadly examining sport, the primary focus of this study is on WTSN (Women’s Television Sports Network), the world’s first 24-hour, digital television network exclusively dedicated to broadcasting women’s sports. WTSN launched in the fall of 2001 and was curtailed in the fall of 2003. Network executives cited low advertising revenues and audience ratings as reasons for suspending broadcasting operations. I argue that the demise and failure of WTSN (a commercial network) can be explained not only in economic terms but in ideological and gendered terms as well.

Three foci illustrate the sociological implications for entrusting commercial media with the task of addressing representational deficits: 1) An analysis of the major inconsistencies in Canadian broadcast policy with regards to digital television and the promotion of culture that is informed by the opinions of media workers; 2) A content analysis of the programming produced by WTSN that contrasts findings of the representation of women’s sports in previous studies; and, 3) A normative discussion of how women’s sports can be used to address representational deficits in the media through a consideration of the relationship between public interest issues and those of the feminist project.

Drawing from political economy and feminist theory I demonstrate how the representation of women’s sports on WTSN was progressive and in stark contrast to the themes reported on in previous studies that have documented sport media. This analysis also shows how the economic imperative has been previously overlooked as an ideological factor in media representation and has therefore impeded the effective implementation of marginal voices in the Canadian sport media.
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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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