A new report compiled for the Australian Sports Commission has shown that women feature in just 7% of of sports programming in Australia.
The report, Towards a Level Playing Field: Sport and Gender in Australian Media, also found that 70% of all female sport coverage is on Pay TV.
Male sports coverage get 81% of television sports coverage, and even horses and dog get more airtime than Australian female athletes.
A decade ago, women’s sport received 11% of television airtime.
“The relatively low volume of reporting and comparatively low duration of airtime given to female sport when compared to women’s success and participation rates implicitly give male sports more significance than female sports in Australian television,” said the ASC report.
Canberra Capitals coach Carrie Graf told the ABC, the lack of coverage of women’s events was “a tragedy.” I think it takes courageous executives in the media to get behind women’s sport and promote the fact that it’s about equal opportunity.”
Women’s sport is so often not taken seriously, or female athletes are subjected to overt sexual objectification. Type ‘women’s sport’ in to Google images and the top suggestion is ‘women’s sports uniform malfunctions’. Similarly, a Google search for ‘female athletes’ produces the top suggestion of ‘female athletes who showed the goods in magazines’.
What sort of message does this send to aspiring female athletes, and to the culture of sport in Australia?
According to the ABS, participation in sport by women aged 15 and over is increasing, and 64% had participated in sport in the 12 months prior to the 2013 statistics. Yet we still fail to provide coverage that reflects this interest in women’s sport, and which encourages women to pursue sport seriously.
Bundaberg Bears captain, Kylie Giles, told Bundaberg News Mail, “[coverage of women’s sport] needs to be higher on a national scale because that is what increases participation rates.”
“If girls don’t see it on the media than they won’t know that it is a career option.”
Similarly, the coverage doesn’t reflect Australian female athletes’ incredible talent. Reporter Timna Jacks noted to the Daily Telegraph: “Australia’s women comfortably outperformed the men at the London Olympics. It could be argued that Karrie Webb, with seven majors, is Australia’s greatest golfer…A Sydney Swifts netball game last season attracted 10,000 supporters, more than attended two National Rugby League games in Sydney on the same weekend.”
The ASC report found that women must win their sport in order to be discussed in the media, where as male sports get discussed “regardless”. But despite the success of our sportswomen, they are still not receiving the coverage they deserve.
An ASC spokesman said the research showed potential with the evolving media landscape, which in a few years will become more tailored to customer’s wants and needs.
“In Australia, there was significant coverage of women’s sport in new mediums such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs at 26%.”
Let’s hope the culture around women’s sport coverage catches up with the times and television networks realise the potential of broadcasting these successful and popular sport competitions.
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