In 2010-11 I was improbably appointed Visiting Professor of Media at Oxford University, a post previously held by a succession of broadcasting prominenti and sponsored by Rupert Murdoch’s company News International.
This involved four lectures entitled “Please, mister, can we have our ball back? Sport, the media, and the people”.
The final lecture was a nuanced assessment of the extent of Rupert Murdoch’s then seemingly boundless power within sport. A few months later the phone-hacking scandal burst into public consciousness; his disgraced paper the News of the World closed down; and, amid much embarrassment, Oxford quietly failed to appoint anyone else to the media chair.
No one attempted to influence the content of my lectures, although a Murdoch representative eyed me warily while I was talking about his boss. The talks were kindly received and are reproduced here for the benefit of future researchers and anyone with nothing better to do.
- 25 January 2011: ‘Life and death? No, much more important than that’: How sport turned into big business, big news – and a global obsession.
- 1 February 2011: ‘It’s the cat’s whisker’: How sport grew and the media grew together, from cave paintings through the radio age to the earliest days of TV. And the story of the most famous and implausible sports reporter of all.
- 8 February 2011: ‘From Reith to wreath’: The great days of sport on BBC TV. And how they ended.
- 15 February 2011: ‘You are the earth and the sky’: How one man became the dominant force in the British media’s coverage of sport. Does that mean he controls sport itself?