Television and Sport – IELTS Reading Passage 3

Television and Sport

when the medium becomes the stadium

A    The relationship between television and sports is not widely thought of as problematic. For many people, television is a simple medium through which sports can be played, replayed, slowed down, and of course conveniently transmitted live to homes across the planet. What is often overlooked, however, is how television networks have reshaped the very foundations of an industry that they claim only to document. Major television stations immediately seized the revenue-generating prospects of televising sports and this has changed everything, from how they are played to who has a chance to watch them.

B    Before television, for example, live matches could only be viewed in person. For the majority of fans, who were unable to afford tickets to the top-flight matches, or to travel the long distances required to see them, the only option was to attend a local game instead, where the stakes were much lower. As a result, thriving social networks and sporting communities formed around the efforts of teams in the third and fourth divisions and below. With the advent of live TV, however, premier matches suddenly became affordable and accessible to hundreds of millions of new viewers. This shift in viewing patterns vacuumed out the support base of local clubs, many of which ultimately folded.

C    For those on the more prosperous side of this shift in viewing behaviour, however, the financial rewards are substantial. Television assisted in derailing long-held concerns in many sports about whether athletes should remain amateurs or ‘go pro’, and replaced this system with a new paradigm where nearly all athletes are free to pursue stardom and to make money from their sporting prowess. For the last few decades, top-level sports men and women have signed lucrative endorsement deals and sponsorship contracts, turning many into multi-millionaires and also allowing them to focus full-time on what really drives them. That they can do all this without harming their prospects at the Olympic Games and other major competitions is a significant benefit for these athletes.

D    The effects of television extend further, however, and in many instances have led to changes in sporting codes themselves. Prior to televised coverage of the Winter Olympics, for example, figure skating involved a component in which skaters drew ‘figures’ in the ice, which were later evaluated for the precision of their shapes. This component translated poorly to the small screen, as viewers found the whole procedure, including the judging of minute scratches on ice, to be monotonous and dull. Ultimately, figures were scrapped in favour of a short programme featuring more telegenic twists and jumps. Other sports are awash with similar regulatory shifts – passing the ball back to the goalkeeper was banned in football after gameplay at the 1990 World Cup was deemed overly defensive by television viewers.

E    In addition to insinuating changes into sporting regulation, television also tends to favour some individual sports over others. Some events, such as the Tour de France, appear to benefit: on television it can be viewed in its entirety, whereas on-site enthusiasts will only witness a tiny part of the spectacle. Wrestling, perhaps due to an image problem that repelled younger (and highly prized) television viewers, was scheduled for removal from the 2020 Olympic Games despite being a founding sport and a fixture of the Olympics since 708 BC. Only after a fervent outcry from supporters was that decision overturned.

F    Another change in the sporting landscape that television has triggered is the framing of sports not merely in terms of the level of skill and athleticism involved, but as personal narratives of triumph, shame and redemption on the part of individual competitors. This is made easier and more convincing through the power of close-up camera shots, profiles and commentary shown during extended build-ups to live events. It also attracts television audiences – particularly women – who may be less interested in the intricacies of the sport than they are in broader ‘human interest’ stories. As a result, many viewers are now more familiar with the private agonies of famous athletes than with their record scores or matchday tactics.

G    And what about the effects of male television viewership? Certainly, men have always been willing to watch male athletes at the top of their game, but female athletes participating in the same sports have typically attracted far less interest and, as a result, have suffered greatly reduced exposure on television. Those sports where women can draw the crowds – beach volleyball, for example – are often those where female participants are encouraged to dress and behave in ways oriented specifically toward a male demographic.

H    Does all this suggest the influence of television on sports has been overwhelmingly negative? The answer will almost certainly depend on who among the various stakeholders is asked. For all those who have lost out – lower-league teams, athletes whose sports lack a certain visual appeal – there are numerous others who have benefitted enormously from the partnership between television and sports, and whose livelihoods now depend on it.

Questions

Questions 27–33

Reading Passage 3 has eight paragraphs, A–H.
Choose the correct heading for paragraphs A–H from the list of headings below. Write the correct number, i–xi, in boxes 27–33 on your answer sheet.

List of Headings

i. Gender bias in televised sport
ii. More money-making opportunities
iii. Mixed views on TV’s role in sports
iv. Tickets to top matches too expensive
v. A common misperception
vi. Personal stories become the focus
vii. Sports people become stars
viii. Rules changed to please viewers
ix. Lower-level teams lose out
x. Skill levels improve
xi. TV appeal influences sports’ success

27.     Paragraph B
28.    Paragraph C
29.    Paragraph D
30.    Paragraph E
31.     Paragraph F
32.    Paragraph G
33.    Paragraph H

Questions 34–37

Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 3? In boxes 34–37 on your answer sheet, write

YES    if the statement agrees with the claims of the writer
NO    if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer
NOT GIVEN    if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

34. Television networks were slow to recognise opportunities to make money from televised sport.

35. The average sports fan travelled a long way to watch matches before live television broadcasts.

36. Television has reduced the significance of an athlete’s amateur status.

37. The best athletes are now more interested in financial success rather than sporting achievement.

Questions 38–40

Complete the notes below.
Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 38–40 on your answer sheet.

                            Effect of television on individual sports
• Ice skating – viewers find ‘figures’ boring so they are replaced with a 38 ………………..
• Back-passing banned in football.
• Tour de France great for TV, but wrestling initially dropped from Olympic Games due to 39 ………………..
• Beach volleyball aimed at 40 ………………..

ANSWERS

Questions 27–33

27. ix

  • The paragraph discussed the change in the direction of the habits of football spectators. A lot of people used to watch local teams.  Then, live TV coverage of the top teams, at the highest level of the game, changed the habits of people who watched football.  Support for local teams declined. 
  • “With the advent of live TV, however, premier matches suddenly became affordable and accessible to hundreds of millions of new viewers. This shift in viewing patterns vacuumed out the support base of local clubs, many of which ultimately folded.”
  • > The answer is ix ‘Lower-level teams lose out’.

28. ii

  • The topic sentence of the paragraph is: “For those on the more prosperous side of this shift in viewing behaviour, however, the financial rewards are substantial.”
  • This signals that the paragraph will discuss money, and how to make money from the change in viewing behaviour. The paragraph later mentioned sports stars earning huge amounts of money from “lucrative endorsement deals and sponsorship contracts.”  They are now “free to pursue stardom and make money from their sporting prowess.”
  • > The answer is ii ‘More money-making opportunities’.

29. viii

  • The topic sentence of the paragraph is : “The effects of television extend further, however, and in many instances have led to changes in sporting codes themselves.”
  • This suggests that the change of viewing behaviour has resulted in changes in sporting codes (= rules, regulations). The paragraph gave an example of how ‘figure skating’ in the Winter Olmpics was changed to short programmes because viewers thought the old format was too technical and boring. Also, in order to make watching more exciting for viewers, “other sports are awash with similar regulatory shifts (= changes in rules)”, for example in football, after TV viewers thought it was too defensive to pass balls back to the goalkeeper.
  • > The answer is viii ‘Rules changed to please viewers’.

30. xi

  • The topic sentence is: “In addition to insinuating changes into sporting regulation, television also tends to favour some individual sports over others.”
  • This indicates that the paragraph will discuss how certain sports are preferred over others.  Some sports have benefitted and gained popularity as a result of TV coverage, for example cycling in the Tour de France, in which viewers can watch the whole race – unlike spectators.  In contrast, wrestling in the Olympics never became widely popular on TV, as it lacked excitement.
  • > The answer is xi ‘TV appeal influences sports’ success’.

31. vi

  • It is mentioned in the topic sentence that: “Another change in the sporting landscape that television has triggered is the framing of sports not merely in terms of the level of skill and athleticism involved, but as personal narratives of triumph, shame and redemption on the part of individual competitors.” 
  • This means the framing of sports (the way that TV presents them) is in terms of personal narratives (=stories) of triumph, shame and redemption rather than just athleticism.  So, individual human interest often becomes the theme, not sporting ability.
  • > The answer is vi ‘Personal stories become the focus’.

32. i

  • It is stated that : “Certainly, men have always been willing to watch male athletes at the top of their game, but female athletes participating in the same sports have typically attracted far less interest and, as a result, have suffered greatly reduced exposure on television.”
  • The paragraph discusses how women have received less TV coverage in sports than men.
  • > The answer is i ‘Gender bias in televised sport’.

33. iii

  • It is stated that: “Does all this suggest the influence of television on sports has been overwhelmingly negative? The answer will almost certainly depend on who among the various stakeholders is asked.”  
  • This means that whether the influence of television on sports is negative or positive depends on each stakeholder => mixed views. Some stakeholders, such as local clubs, say that TV influence is bad, as they have suffered as a result of media coverage of sport.  Other stakeholders say it is good.
  • > The answer is iii ‘Mixed views on TV’s role in sports’.

Questions 34–37

34. NO

  • It is stated in paragraph A that: “Major television stations immediately seized the revenue-generating prospects of televising sports and this has changed everything, from how they are played to who has a chance to watch them.”
    • slow >< immediately
    • recognise the opportunity to make money ~ seized the revenue-generating prospects
  • This means that television networks realised the chances right away, and they were certainly not slow.
  • > The answer is NO.

35. NO

  • It is stated in paragraph B that: “For the majority of fans, who were unable to afford tickets to the top-flight matches, or to travel the long distances required to see them, the only option was to attend a local game instead, where the stakes were much lower.”
  • This means that the majority of sport fans could not travel a long way to watch matches before live  TV broadcasts, because they couldn’t afford to.  Instead, many chose to watch local games.
  • > The answer is NO.

36. YES

  • In paragraph C, it is stated that: “Television assisted in derailing long-held concerns in many sports about whether athletes should remain amateurs or ‘go pro’, and replaced this system with a new paradigm where nearly all athletes are free to pursue stardom and to make money from their sporting prowess.”
    • reducing the significance of = derailing concerns
  • > The answer is YES.

37. NOT GIVEN

  • It is stated in paragraph C that: “For the last few decades, top-level sports men and women have signed lucrative endorsement deals and sponsorship contracts, turning many into multi-millionaires and also allowing them to focus full-time on what really drives them.”.
    • best = top-level
    • financial success ~ lucrative endorsement deals + sponsorship contracts
  • The sentence suggests that the best athletes have been earning large amounts of money with endorsement deals and sponsorship. However, no information about them prioritising money over sports was mentioned.  Having a lot of money simply enables them to concentrate on performing well their sport.
  • > The answer is NOT GIVEN.

Questions 38–40

38. short programme/program

  • It is stated in paragraph D that: “This component (figure skating) translated poorly to the small screen, as viewers found the whole procedure, including the judging of minute scratches on ice, to be monotonous and dull. Ultimately, figures were scrapped in favour of a short programme featuring more telegenic twists and jumps.”.
    • find ‘figures’ boring ~ find … to be monotonous and dull
    • replaced with = scrapped in favour of
  • This means that figure skating or figures was not popular with viewers, so it was replaced with a short programme which was more visually exciting, with lots of action.
  • > The answer is “short programme”.

39. image problem

  • It is stated in paragraph E that: “Wrestling, perhaps due to an image problem that repelled younger (and highly prized) television viewers, was scheduled for removal from the 2020 Olympic Games …”.
    • initially dropped ~ scheduled for removal from
  • Wrestling was, therefore, planned to be dropped from the 2020 Olympics because young people disliked its image.
  • > The answer is “image problem”.

40. male demographic/men

  • It is stated in paragraph G that: “Those sports where women can draw the crowds – beach volleyball, for example – are often those where female participants are encouraged to dress and behave in ways oriented specifically toward a male demographic.”
    • aimed at = oriented toward
  • This means that in beach volleyball, women are dressed and behave in a way that attracts mainly male viewers/spectators = a male demographic.
  • > The answer is “male demographic”.

IELTS Reading British council

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