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ABC highlights decline in media coverage of women’s sport

ABC highlights decline in media coverage of women’s sport
April 12, 2015

With coverage of male sport making up 81% of television sports news coverage, compared to 8.7% coverage of women’s sport, an ABC news report has drawn attention to a drop in media coverage of women’s sport in Australia.

Highlighting that women feature in only 7% of sports programming in Australia, writer Stephanie Chalkley-Rhoden says this is a backwards step compared to a decade ago and represents “a significant gender gap in a country where sport is king.”

Commenting on the latest update to the Australian Sports Commission’s Towards a Level Playing Field: Sport and Gender in Australian Media report, Chalkley-Rhoden found there was a stark difference in the coverage of male and female sport on television.

This was despite "the ongoing successes and strong participation levels of women in sport", according to the report.

Compiled for the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) by the University of New South Wales Journalism and Media Research Centre and Media Monitors, the report shows that coverage of women’s sport had declined in recent years, with women's sport making up about 11% of television sport programming a decade ago.

The report stated "to put this into context, horse racing received more air time than women's sport in Australian television news”, adding “the relatively low volume of reporting and comparatively low duration of air time 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.”

Breakdown of Australian sports coverage

Source: Towards a Level Playing Field: Sport and Gender in Australian Media

On a more positive note, the research found there was "a remarkable absence" of stereotyping around women's sport, and the tone and content of reports on female athletes had greatly improved.

The report added “they were very rarely portrayed in a sexual way and most frequently portrayed as competitive and successful."

Commenting on the issue, Netball Australia Chief Executive Kate Palmer said good coverage of women's sport was "not a right" for any sport.

She told the ABC “it's never a right to get that media coverage ... we need to do a good job of marketing our sport so we get that sort of product.

"It is disappointing, but at the end of the day it's about us working hard to change that.

"Some of our individual athletes are actually much more successful than many male athletes in this country, so it's changing."

News coverage also portrayed women's sport in a more positive light compared to men, but the report said it was a "double-edged sword", because it meant female athletes needed to win to gain media coverage, while men were discussed regardless.

With the decline in coverage looking set to continue, with the ABC no longer broadcasting the W-League and the WNBL, Netball Australia is taking control of its own coverage paying broadcasters' production costs to show the sport on television.

Palmer said that initiative, combined with its new mobile app that streamed games live, gave the sport more control over content and the sport's overall product.

She added "it has been a really important journey for the sport over the last eight years and what's been important is really being clear about what we're trying to achieve.

"Broadcast continues to be that thing that will break the back of our issues around profile, but we've got great partners in place at the moment and they're really keen to help us change the sport forever."

Click here to view the original ABC report.

Click here to view the most recent Towards a Level Playing Field: Sport and Gender in Australian Media report.

11th March 2015 - MORE WOMEN PLAYING AND WATCHING SPORT, BUT PAY GAP REMAINS

25th November 2014 - ABC CUTS TO IMPACT WOMEN’S AND INDIGENOUS SPORT COVERAGE

2nd November 2012 - ABOUT TIME FOR WOMEN IN AUSTRALIAN SPORT

21st May 2010 - ELLIS RELEASES REPORT ON GENDER, SPORT AND MEDIA


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