The Impact of International TV Media Coverage of the Beijing Olympics 2008 on China's Media Image Formation: A Media Content Analysis Perspective
Zeng, Guojun, Go, Frank, Kolmer, Christian, International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship
A country's position in global competition can be influenced by its national image. Presently, mega-events (particularly those featuring sports) play a significant role in drawing media coverage and, by extension, impact on public perception. This paper aims to explain the impact of international TV media coverage of the Beijing Olympics 2008 on worldwide public perceptions of China.
This study builds on agenda-setting theory to analyse how foreign TV media telecasts of the Beijing Olympics 2008 affected perceptions of China in nine different media lands. It refers to 7,261 news stories about China, from 8 August 2007 to 24 August 2009, collected in a database and subjected to content analysis by Media Tenor International. Based on this data, the change of Visibility, Valence, Breadth and Attribution of China's international televised image are analysed.
The visibility of the host country before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games increased through TV coverage. However, it subsequently declined to a below-average level. The main contribution of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games for China has been an enhancement of understanding about the country worldwide.
It is difficult to determine whether China now has a more positive international televised image around the world than it did before the Games. Put differently, the Breadth and Attribution of China's image appears to have remained relatively stable. Therefore, it cannot be concluded that the Beijing Olympics 2008 improved China's national image directly. Indirectly, however, the international media can be said to have raised interest in the host country and helped define its national image more clearly.
This study provides findings on the effects of mega-events on the telecasted national image of a host country. Practical and theoretical implications are discussed and future research directions are provided.
A country's position in global competition can be affected by its national image. The staging of a mega-event plays, according to current popular belief, an important role in national image formation. Some countries use mega-events, including sports events, as a core component of their destination marketing strategy to appeal to visitors. In this process, the media is the key vehicle between a mega-event and the host country's image formation. The interactions between media practices and audiences are becoming increasingly important in the shaping of public perception and meaning making (Dong et al, 2005). The latter is relevant because, in turn, media coverage shapes decision-making by both consumers and business executives. Thus, it is important for business and government leaders, as well as the public, to understand the impact of the media.
The media plays an important role in generating public interest (Cohen, 1963). Media agenda-setting refers to the deliberate coverage of topics or events with the goal of influencing public opinion. Researchers have used agenda-setting theory to determine the image of cities or corporations (Carroll & McCombs, 2003) and to examine the image of cities or countries (Rivenburgh, 1992; Avraham, 2000). However, the formation of national image consequent to mega-event staging, while relevant, has been an under-studied topic. Following Croteau and Hoynes (2003), this study considers "audiences to be active interpreters of the media rather than passive receivers". However, it also acknowledges that media audiences are members of particular cultures and inter-cultural differences can easily result in misinterpretation of the meaning of media messages. This observation is particularly relevant in the context of telecasting the Beijing Olympics 2008 from China, with its unique historical, cultural and economic background, which differs markedly from the Western social context of interpretation.
There has been increasing academic interest in the study of mega-events in relation to place image measurement in the West. Despite the fact that China has received increasing media coverage due to its rapidly growing economy and rising political power, there have been few attempts to examine media coverage in relation to staged mega-events in the Chinese context. The Beijing Olympics 2008 is a phenomenon that is justified and relevant to be studied in order to enable an informed response to a complex issue, i.e. what effects can media coverage of mega-event staging have on the telecasted national image? Based on agenda-setting theory, this paper seeks to understand the implications of media presentation and processes in relation to the Beijing Olympics 2008 and tourism. It asks, particularly, whether the Beijing Olympics 2008 may, or may not, have transformed the national image of China in international TV media.
Mega-events and destination image
A long line of tourism research argues that mega-event staging results in considerable international attention and increased recognition of the host country as a potential tourist destination (Gunn, 1989; Brown et al, 2004; Lee et al, 2005). Other research indicates that improvement of the host country's destination image (Brown et al, 2004; Giffard & Rivenburgh, 2000; Xing & Chalip, 2006) and the possible establishment of a legacy are among the benefits of hosting a mega event.
Roche (1994) notes that mega-events may be short-term in nature but they offer potentially long-term consequences for the host country. In the long term, the benefits of staging mega-events for host destinations are spectators' repeat visitation and increased tourism investments. Hede (2005) explores the efficacy of the Australian telecast of the Athens Olympics in 2004 in changing perceptions and attitudes of Greece as a tourist destination. He finds that 38.7% of respondents indicated their overall attitudes toward Greece as tourist destination had improved as a result of telecast consumption of the Athens Olympics.
Chalip et al (2003) compare destination advertising and sports event media effects in an experiment involving nine destination image dimensions in relation to the intention to visit a specific host destination. They find that event telecasting, event advertising and destination advertising each affect different dimensions of destination image. Each of the media forms used has some negative effect. Based primarily on evidence from three cities in the United Kingdom (UK), Smith (2005) explores the value of sport as a re-imaging theme for the contemporary city. He found that, although sport re-imaging does exhibit some advantageous qualities, there are also significant problems associated with this mode of place marketing. Smith's study mainly focuses on domestic tourism. So far, few researchers have explored, specifically, the role of mega-event staging in changing national image in international media presentations. Furthermore, Xing and Chalip (2006) state, "we know very little about changing a destination's image or brand". The dearth of empirical evidence with regard to the role of mega-event staging in developing positive impressions of a particular host destination renders relevant this case study of the Beijing Olympics 2008; and, in particular, its relationship to the expected change it might have on China's image in international telecasting.
International media coverage of national image
Insights into the media coverage process play a very important role in understanding issues that affect, and may possibly change, a perceived national image. For example, satellite television offers a place-independent international information space that broadcasts and represents information that appeals to target audiences. In particular, these broadcasters reflect a cultural mindset and should be framed accordingly (Go and Fenema, 2006).
Telecasting is an increasingly important aspect of event-related destination marketing strategies. Because of its global reach, telecasting plays an active role in defining, shaping and changing national images around the world. However, a televised national image portrayal does not automatically translate into an image held by audience members. This is particularly the case when audiences lack direct experience of, or information about, a particular nation. However, Rivenburgh (1992) inferred that repeated national images, as a component of mainstream media content, would influence the understanding of audiences.
Drawing on several definitional approaches considered appropriate to media content analysis, a national image can be seen as a symbolic construction containing abstract and concrete representations associated with a given nation or people (Rivenburgh, 1992). Manheim and Albritton (1984) used interrupted time-series analysis to examine the efforts undertaken by professional public relations consultants to influence the image of foreign nations as portrayed in the United States press. Their analysis identifies consistent patterns of improvement along two primary dimensions of national image: Visibility and Valence. Based on previous research (Manheim & Albritton, 1984; Burriss, 1988) Rivenburgh (1992) constructs a framework of national image in TV media which includes four components: Visibility, Valence, Breadth and Attribution. Visibility refers to the quantity of media coverage of another nation (Manheim & Albritton, 1984; Rivenburgh, 1992). Valence refers to the degree to which a news item reflects favourably or unfavourably on the nation as derived by some assessment of cues within the content (Manheim & Albritton, 1984; Rivenburgh, 1992). Breadth, which tends to cluster around political or economic issues, is about the content themes or topics about other nations (Rivenburgh, 1992). …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: The Impact of International TV Media Coverage of the Beijing Olympics 2008 on China's Media Image Formation: A Media Content Analysis Perspective. Contributors: Zeng, Guojun - Author, Go, Frank - Author, Kolmer, Christian - Author. Journal title: International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship. Volume: 12. Issue: 4 Publication date: July 2011. Page number: 319+. © 2003 International Marketing Reports Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.