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New study finds New Zealand media leads the world in gender-balanced sports coverage

New study finds New Zealand media leads the world in gender-balanced sports coverage
April 29, 2021

Sport NZ and Isentia have today released the first report from a major study into the gender balance of coverage and reporting of women’s sport in New Zealand.

Involving the analysis of 40,000 media items - around one-third of all sports coverage - the study found that women’s sport accounts for 15% of sports coverage in the country’s media, a higher than studies conducted in other nations, including Australia (7%), UK (4% to 10%) and the USA (5%).

The study also shows improvement over time, with a 2011 study in New Zealand finding that gender balance then sat at 11%.

Commenting on the findings, Sport New Zealand Chief Executive, Raelene Castle stated “there has been positive change, but 15% highlights the journey we have ahead to achieve true equity.

“The picture is most concerning when you look at the five sports that receive the most media coverage in Aotearoa: rugby, cricket, football, rugby league and basketball. These account for nearly three-quarters of all sports coverage but within these sports there is an average of only 6.6% coverage of women’s sport. This is where the media are putting most of their resources. Its where we need to see the most change.”

Other key findings from the report include:

• Female journalists account for 21% of bylines
• Only five sports have more female coverage than male coverage: netball, hockey, canoe sprint, snow sports and gymnastics
• Netball is the seventh most covered sport, accounting for 4.3% of all sports coverage. Rugby is number one with 32.3%.
• Female coverage is more likely to focus on preview/preparation/training (male 26% versus female 21%) and selection/signing/contracts (male 9% versus female 6%)
• Females are three-times more likely to have their appearance commented on
• There is almost no evidence of sexualisation or demeaning images (less than 1%)

A major highlight of the study is that there is little evidence of gender imbalance in how athletes and others are portrayed, whether that’s through media commentary, imagery or the comments of other people. Imbalance in portrayal was a major theme in a study of Olympic coverage conducted by the New Zealand Olympic Committee and Isentia in 2016.

One example based on the Rio 2016 Olympics found women were nine times more likely to be pictured with their partner/spouse. In the Sport NZ-Isentia report women are only 1.5 times more likely to be pictured with a spouse or other family member, and this is less than 2% of the imagery analysed.

Castle added “we have seen really positive change over the past five years. It shows that media have understood the need for change around portrayal of female athletes, and this is really encouraging.”

With Sport NZ now working with media, sports and other stakeholders to explore opportunities highlighted within the study to improve gender balance in coverage and reporting, Castle went on to say “it’s about working together to understand the reasons for inequity, but great female performances deserve strong media coverage.

“The three world cups provide a massive opportunity to drive further change - change we hope will be sustainable into the future. One legacy of these events must be lasting change in how women’s sport is covered and the overall nature of sports reporting.”

Click here to view the Sport NZ-Isentia Women & Media Report.

Images: The Silver Ferns celebrating their 2019 Netball World Cup win (top) and the cover of the new report (below).

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25th March 2021 - High Performance Sport NZ to invest $273 million in new elite strategy

18th March 2021 - Call for papers issued for 2022 Auckland IWG World Conference on Women & Sport

17th March 2021 - Deloitte report predicts ongoing growth of women’s sport and its sponsorships

17th March 2021 - World Rugby unveils global women’s competition calendar with annual WXV competition

3rd March 2021 - World Rugby recommends 2021 Women’s World Cup be delayed for a year

16th December 2020 - Auckland sport and recreation Women’s Networking Event focuses on empowerment and future initiatives

4th November 2020 - Sport New Zealand names Raelene Castle as new Chief Executive

7th July 2020 - Funding released to assist New Zealand sport recovery at all levels

14th February 2020 - Silver Ferns secure top honours at 57th Halberg Awards 

18th March 2019 - New Zealand sport organisation leaders focus on governance

12th October 2018 - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launches Sport NZ Strategy for Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation

11th February 2017 - Canoeist Lisa Carrington claims top honours at 54th Halberg Awards

10th August 2012 - Research shows women underrepresented in sports coverage


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