Theoretical Framework World System Theory and Agenda Setting Theory

World system theory, with agenda setting theory, offers an appropriate framework for examining international communication of the Russian doping scandal and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. World system theory is used to explore the scandal and international media communication. Agenda setting theory helps to further the discussion of the media's ability to influence the public agenda as it relates to policies for international events.

World System Theory

The most widely followed adaptation of world system theory was developed by Immanuel Wallerstein in 1974 to describe the designation of world areas as developed or underdeveloped areas (Bergesen, 1990). Those areas became known as core zones, semiperipheral, and peripheral zones (McPhail, 2014). Within the system order exist an equal process of trade and exchange, where core zones hold the power (Bergesen, 1990). The zones consistently interact on various levels, including economically, politically, culturally, and socially (McPhail, 2014).

Agenda Setting Theory

Agenda setting theory is made up of several factors; however, it is often described as the transfer of issue importance from the news to the public (Kim & McCombs, 2007; McCombs, Shaw, & Weaver, 2014). Agenda setting has been used to approach different forms of communication, including advertising and social media. The theory has also been expanded to explore specific cultural topics and news events (Bantimaroudis, Zyglidopoulos, & Symeou, 2010; McCombs et. al, 2014).

Concerning international communication and the Russian doping scandal, agenda setting theory will be utilized to explore coverage of the scandal. A world system lens will be applied to compare western media coverage of the scandal to coverage in semi-peripheral and peripheral zones. Doing so will help to determine what, if any, influence coverage of the scandal had on the final ruling by the International Olympic Committee.


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Kim, K., & McCombs, M. (2007). News Story Descriptions and the Public’s Opinions of Political Candidates. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 84(2), 299–314.

McCombs, M. E., Shaw, D. L., & Weaver, D. H. (2014). New Directions in Agenda-Setting Theory and Research. Mass Communication & Society, 17(6), 781–802.

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