Watching disability: UK audience perceptions of the Paralympics, equality and social change

Authors: Pullen, E., Jackson, D. and Silk, M.

Journal: European Journal of Communication

Volume: 35

Issue: 5

Pages: 469-483

ISSN: 0267-3231


Despite the social change ambitions of Paralympic governing bodies and National broadcasters, there is still a shortage of evidence of where public social attitudes stand with respect to disabled bodies, and how these respond to the changing nature of Paralympic broadcasting. Based on a large-scale qualitative audience study across England and Wales, we aim to address this empirical gap. Our findings demonstrate how audiences internalise socially progressive ideas toward disability in line with Channel 4’s broadcasting strategy. These include a greater appreciation of Paralympic sport as an elite sporting event, the ‘normalisation’ of the technologically enhanced disabled body and an awareness of emerging cultural citizenship concerning disability rights-based discourses. Yet, at the same time, we evidence new, potentially damaging stigma hierarchies of disability preference framed by ‘ablenational’ sentiments. Findings are discussed within ongoing debates around mega sporting events, media audiences and disability Biopolitics.

Source: BURO EPrints