Research Report on the Tokyo 2020 Broadcasting in Sub-Saharan Africa

Emma Pullen
March 31, 2022
Case Studies and Reports


The AT 2030 Para Sport Against Stigma project aimed to examine how disability stigma can be overcome through Para sport so to increase assistive technology (AT) adoption in Africa. The project centred on a four-pillar approach: education, athlete development, Paralympic broadcast and cross-cutting research activity.

This research report will document the research insights from the broadcast research pillar. It will provide an overview of the research conducted, key insights, and an analysis of ‘what works’ in order to enhance the sustainable development, reach and impact of the Paralympic broadcasting across Sub Saharan Africa as a vehicle for disability stigma reduction and AT adoption.

The research insights outlined in this report have been developed through fieldwork activities conducted Malawi in collaboration with colleagues at the Centre of Social Research (CSR), University of Malawi. The fieldwork included:
• Preliminary communicative ecology mapping in Malawi.
• Interviews with staff at TV Media Sport (TVMS) (the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) broadcast partner responsible for the production and distribution of the Tokyo paralympic games highlights package) and Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) (National public service state broadcaster in Malawi).
• Translations of Paralympic broadcast TV Package.
• Focus group research with Paralympic audiences across Malawi.

Taken together, the research provided important knowledge on: (a) the successes and challenges in the development and distribution of the Paralympic Tokyo 2020 highlights package; (b) audience experiences of watching the Paralympic highlights package; and (c) the cultural impact of the broadcast on disability stigma reduction and the reduction of barriers to AT adoption.

Executive Summary

The research insights indicate that there were some technical difficulties related to the distribution of the Tokyo Paralympic Games highlights video packages from TVMS to National broadcasters. These were overcome where possible by National broadcasters but led to some delays in the scheduled broadcasting of the Games across all 49 National Broadcasters. Insights regarding the technical challenges faced by National broadcasters in the distribution of the highlights package need to be considered by the IPC and TVMS with interventions to improve the effectiveness of future distribution.
Focus group audience research conducted in Malawi indicated that TV broadcasting reached a relatively limited audience share. Audience research highlighted the popularity and importance of radio broadcast and community screening activities in community spaces such as Schools. These communication activities were especially important to reach and engage rural communities. The research indicates that Paralympic broadcasting via a single National TV station significantly reduces audiences’ engagement, reaching mainly urban and middle-class populations. It is imperative that the IPC and TVMS consider ways to improve the reach of the Paralympic audience though diversifying the ways in which the broadcast is delivered.
Focus group audience research conducted in Malawi further indicates that the impact of the Paralympic broadcast on audiences’ disability attitudes was positive. A proportion of the Malawian Paralympic audience suggested Paralympic coverage was a useful tool for tackling negative cultural disability attitudes and showcasing the role of AT in enabling individuals with a disability to play sport and participate in civic life. Personal and localised stories of Para athletes and their experience of disability were particularly powerful in capturing the audience and reducing some forms of disability stigma. Paralympic coverage can play an important role in addressing disability stigma and AT use, but content needs to be localised to engage communities in local Para athlete stories of disability. It is imperative to consider the power of disability narratives in the Paralympic coverage and consider how these can be developed to better challenge intersectional forms of disability stigma and AT uptake.

Preferred Citation:

Pullen, E. (Ed.) (March 2022) Para Sport Against Stigma. Research Report on the Tokyo 2020 Broadcasting in Sub Saharan Africa. Prepared for the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub). Loughborough, UK