Chapter 6 - Women's Sport and the Media
Writing in response to submissions to this committee
inquiry, journalist Greg Baum
Women's soccer is a joke...Women's cricket is not much better.
Netball is OK, sometimes, when there is nothing else on. But women's basketball
is not...Women runners, jumpers, throwers, cyclists and swimmers do their best,
but it is, by definition, second-best.
Meanwhile, on morning commercial television on the day
of one of the committee's hearings, Mr John
Mangos of Sky News said
There's no way to say this nicely without sounding sexist, but
the fact of the matter is blokes hit the ball further, kick the ball harder, go
in harder, it's better to watch, end of story.
These remarks may have been meant in good humour, but
indicate an entrenched sexism that underpins the lack of balance in coverage of
sport. It is sexism not because there are no differences between men's and
women's sports, but because those differences cannot explain the differences in
media coverage. Commentators such as those quoted above appear to be looking
for excuses for the prejudices of either themselves or of media outlets.
Australian women's sport includes high-achieving teams
and magnificent individual efforts. Australian sportswomen at international
meets have given brilliant performances, sometimes outshining the men, such as
when the Australian women's swimming team at the 2004 Olympic Games secured
more medals than their male counterparts.
The women's hockey team, the Hockeyroos have frequently dominated international
competition, winning Olympic gold and international championships on many
occasions. The Australian women's
netball team has won eight of the eleven world championships.
Individual performances also abound. Golfer Carrie
Webb has won more major championships than
any other Australian golfer, male or female. Lauren Jackson is not just
Australia's best female basketball player: she was a member of the US National
Women's Basketball League's All-Decade team, as well as being the competition's
youngest-ever player to reach 1000 points, and its 2003 Most Valuable Player. Zoe
Goss was one of Australia's
top women cricketers when in 1994 she famously dismissed Brian
Lara in a charity match. Her compatriot Belinda
Clark retired with nearly 4000 runs at an
average better than that of Steve
Waugh or Alan
Border. Of Australia's
many gifted swimmers, it is Susan
O'Neill who has won the most national
titles. In the final days of this inquiry, Australian swimmers Liesl
Jones and Libby
Lenton broke two swimming world records in
the one night – and both of them have multiple world record times to their
names. This was closely followed
by the Sydney Swifts
being only the second team in any Australian league of modern times to complete
a season undefeated in any game – the first to do so were the St
George rugby league team in 1959.
Why does women's sport get so little attention?
Despite many great achievements, women's sport gets
little media coverage. This has been analysed in a number of studies,
particularly in An Illusory Image,
published by the Australian Sports Commission in 1996. Studies of print media
coverage of women's sport in 1980 concluded that two per cent of print sports
coverage was about women's sport.
Data gathered for An Illusory Image
suggested newspaper coverage had increased to 10.7 per cent. When the South Australian Premier's
Council for Women commissioned similar research in 2006, it found that coverage
was just 4.1 per cent, and that was despite a number of high-profile women's
sporting events occurring during the study period. Even these poor figures may
overstate the impact of women's sport. An
Illusory Image showed that most newspaper stories on women's sport were
relatively poorly positioned in the paper, and mostly appeared when there was
less men's sport – during the week.
A 1992 report stated that in 1988 only 1.3 per cent of
televised sport was women's sport.
The picture painted of television sports coverage by An Illusory Image was scathing: only 2 per cent of coverage was for
women's sport, and this was carried almost exclusively by non-commercial
networks. There was however more coverage of mixed sport, particularly due to
the Wimbledon Tennis Championships falling during the study period. The little
coverage provided was certainly not a reflection of the limited time available:
One program detailed the minutiae of guinea pig racing for more
than six minutes, whereas the only woman's story on the same show was given 15
None of the commercial free-to-air networks provided
data on their sporting coverage to the committee. Approximately 10 per cent of
sport broadcast on Fox Sports is women's sport. The balance is better on the ABC,
with around one third of national televised sport being national women's
competitions (Table 6.1).
Table 6.1 ABC TV Broadcasts of women's national
Women’s Sport: National Competitions (hours)
% of National Sport***
Source: ABC, Submission 59, p. 3.
The only information on radio coverage of sport came
from An Illusory Image, and provided
the most disturbing picture of all. The study of two radio stations, one
commercial and one non-commercial, revealed almost no women's sport (1.4 per
cent), little mixed sport (3.5 per cent) with over 95 per cent of coverage
being men's sport.
Many submitters were of the view that coverage of
women's sport was improving only slowly, and that something needs to be done
about it. With so many successful
female individuals, women's teams, and with such extensive participation by
women at grassroots level, reasons have to be found as to why coverage of
women's sport is deficient. Sports writer Patrick
Smith observed that the reason that golfer Carrie
Webb did not receive good coverage was 'not
her swing but her sex'. Many
however argue that there are other reasons that women's sport lack media
The major argument sometimes made is that women just
are not as good at sports as men, and people want to watch and read about the
best. Journalist Julie Tullberg
told the committee that she thought fans tended to be attracted to male
performances, although that also appeared to be a function of what sports had
However, there is also evidence to suggest performance
is not necessarily related to media coverage. There are some sports that only
women play at the elite level, and others that only men play. Even in these
cases, the sports dominated by men get far more media coverage. If the argument
were valid, then those sports where only women play at the elite level and are
therefore by definition 'the best' would get media attention. Yet in general
they do not. Only women play elite netball in Australia,
but the media coverage of that competition is dwarfed by the coverage of any of
half a dozen male team sports. Also, the argument does not get applied in men's
sport. As sociologist Lois Bryson
pointed out during a parliamentary inquiry in 1991:
is not considered a kindergartener because he probably could not last a round
with a mediocre heavy weight boxer. Yet this is the framework applied to women.
There are also occasions when women's events get equal
or greater media coverage when broadcasters perceive something worth covering,
such as successful women competitors at Olympic events. In New Zealand the 1999 netball
World Championship final between Australia and New Zealand out-rated the
Bledisloe Cup Rugby held a few months earlier (1 002 000 viewers, against 873
000). In the US,
the television audience for the men's tennis Grand Slam in the period 1997 to
2000 was less than that for the women's on eight out of 12 occasions.
Another complaint about women's sport is that it lacks
depth of talent. Yet, as Patrick
Smith argued, there is great depth at the
top of women's golf. The US Basketball leagues' Most Valuable Player Awards are
equally likely to be won by different individuals, suggesting the women's and
men's competitions have similar depth of talent. Just as many different women have
won major individual sporting events as have men (Table 6.2)
Table 6.2 Numbers
of different individuals winning sporting competitions in the last ten events,
of male winners
of female winners
World championships, 100 metres swimming
The Open (USA),
Do women watch other women play sport? The evidence suggests
they do and, perhaps just as importantly, men watch women's sport as well.
Premier Media Group indicated that most of the audience for Fox Sports was
male, but that this varied from event to event, with strong ratings for events
with an even gender breakdown, such as major tennis competitions. Womensport and Recreation NSW noted
how the National Rugby League have recognised that half their audience are
women, and see this as a positive.
Although 70 per cent of the audience at a USA Women's National Basketball
Association (WNBA) game may be female, the television audience is around 50-50
men and women. The New
Zealand television audience for the 1999
Netball World Championship was similarly evenly balanced. Margaret
Henley's conclusion was that this confirmed
'the television scheduler's popular wisdom that men will watch any sport if it
is quality sport, even if played by women'.
If women are just as ready to participate in and watch
sport, and if women's sport is capable of being successfully reported, why is
there so little coverage? There are several likely reasons.
First, men's sport has the advantage of incumbency.
Men's sports have been reported for decades. They gain numerous advantages from
this: familiarity to audiences; loyalties that have developed amongst viewers,
including loyalties that are handed down within families; established business
models and business experience, reducing the risks of failure; cash flows that
allow them to continually advertise and promote their products, and so on. Chris
Isidore, a commentator with CNNfn, in
reviewing progress of the WNBA in US broadcasting, noted 'just how difficult it
is to turn any new sports league into a money maker'.
Second, the sporting marketplace is crowded, with four
football codes being played and broadcast nationally, in addition to cricket,
several other national sporting leagues, and widespread interest in other
sports that might rate little attention in many other countries, such as
swimming. There are also business linkages between some men's sports and
Third, the coverage of sport is to some affected by the
attitude of the media and sports organisations. Most reporting is by men, under
male editors or program managers. Several witnesses thought that women's involvement
as journalists could result in good coverage of women's sport. Liz
Ellis remarked on how there was more
coverage of women's sport in The
Australian when its sports editor was a woman. She also argued that the
journalists influenced the gender balance of content:
I think the last statement in particular—that people would not
be interested in women’s sport—is a bit of a furphy. I think it is more that
the journalists want to write about football because that is what they know
She also made the point that the perceived minor status
of women's sport also affects the way newspapers go about covering it. She
spoke of how one paper would:
assign their junior reporters, their cadet reporters, to cover
netball. So every year we get a new junior reporter who comes in and you have
to explain the competition to them, the people they need to look out for and
the history of what is happening.
The marginal interest shown by some individuals or
businesses in media may also be reflected amongst some sporting organisations,
one of which in its submission to this inquiry referred to women's sport, along
with some men's sports, as 'minority sports'.
A fourth, and perhaps most important, reason for the
neglect of women's sport is that it is trapped in cycles of neglect, poor
funding, poor infrastructure and low levels of interest.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) pointed out that
limited media exposure means limited commercial opportunities for sport. This
severely curtails revenue-raising capacity, and limits interest from
broadcasters. Lack of revenue prevents both expensive competitions (for
example, flying teams interstate for national league games) and puts mainstream
advertising (such as television spots) out of commercial reach. It also limits
venue quality, and that can affect the willingness of fans to attend games.
These factors all in turn reinforce a lack of media exposure, and thus a lack
of media engagement.
This vicious circle, FFA suggested, could only be
broken 'through government intervention, particularly in terms of a mandatory
minimum coverage of women in sport or some kind of affirmative action'.
Gendered coverage of women's sport
It is not only the quantity of coverage that is at
issue. There are differences in the way the media portray women's and men's
sport, mostly reinforcing gender stereotypes, or undermining women's
achievements. As Ms Jackie
Frank said in response to Mr
Mangos's remarks on Channel Seven's Sunrise
program, one of the issues with coverage is that 'The word is exposure. Women
have to expose themselves to get a bit of airtime'. This is a longstanding concern
surrounding women's sport. Women's sport is more likely to be sexualised, and
women are more likely to emphasise sexuality in fundraising for their sport. However, while this kind of
portrayal is frequently used to secure media coverage, it can also create
problems for the sport. One newspaper sports editor was reported in An Illusory Image as saying:
You would be surprised at the number of excellent action shots
involving women sport-stars from tennis, netball and hockey, which get thrown
in the bin simply as a result of their uniforms being short and their sports
pants showing. It is not worth the grief we get from a very loud minority
public to run these photos and that is a shame.
ACTSport raised the concern that stereotypes of what
women play may create barriers to the media portrayal of sport:
I do not want to be disrespectful of netball, but it is an easy
sport for the media to grab because it epitomises the ultimate in the feminine,
non-threatening aspects of sport. It is 95 per cent played by women, for women.
They wear skirts. There is a very feminine kind of presentation in the whole
sport of netball.
The analysis presented in An Illusory Image highlighted how dominant were various stereotypes
of women in media coverage. They were often referred to as girls; were more
likely to be shown in passive poses; far more likely to be shown in posed, and
sometimes sexualised, images; and subjected to stereotyped descriptions (as,
too, were men). One submission
forwarded an example to the committee of coverage on one page of a newspaper,
which printed a story about female competitors in terms of their appearance and
emotions while in the other story, on the same page and covering the same
sport, reported news on their male counterparts without any such language. A study of ABC online coverage of
the 2000 Olympics found that while women and men athletes received relatively
balanced amounts of coverage, the women were more likely than men to be
infantilised and to be described in emotive terms, and there was limited
breadth in the coverage of women in the Olympics.
Reporting of women's sport that reinforces stereotypes
and trivialises women's achievements could be worse than no coverage at all. However the overwhelming view of
writers in the field, and of participants in this inquiry, is that there needs
to be greater media coverage of women's sport, and that strategies need to be
found that will achieve this outcome. One example of success that was regularly
noted was that of the broadcasting of netball in New
Media success: netball in New Zealand
In New Zealand
netball is, as it is in Australia,
a popular sport amongst women. As in Australia,
there is a national netball league and a national team. Ten years ago, the code
received similar levels of media coverage in both countries. Today however, the sports share
diverging fortunes, as netball in New Zealand
has become a top-ranking sport behind Rugby Union. The coverage of the sport is so
good that Australian captain Liz
Ellis was able to follow the Australian
league results by reading the New Zealand
Netball receives televised coverage in New
Zealand on the free-to-air channel TVNZ. In
2006 TVNZ broadcast 18 National Bank Cup competition games including two
matches each weekend for the seven weeks of the tournament, plus the four
finals games, spread over three weekends. It also broadcast international games
against Australia and South Africa, and the Commonwealth Games gold medal match
(against Australia), and three Scottwood Trust games. TV viewing data indicates that
netball secures a healthy share of New Zealand
audiences, with the weekly national league games typically securing 20 to 30 per
cent audience share. Feature events such as series finals and international
matches secure much larger shares – up to two thirds of viewers in their time
There have been several suggestions about why media
portrayal of netball in New Zealand
has undergone such a change. One concerns governance: Netball NZ has a board
with passionate business people from outside the sport bringing valuable
business perspectives to bear on the sport's future, and they have worked to
create a detailed blueprint for giving the sport a higher profile. Another reason for the change may
be marketing success: the organisation has hit upon the right marketing
strategies, getting the sport to the point where it is something that
journalists and editors want to cover.
A third suggestion was that a franchise business model was keeping
administrative costs down as well as bringing revenue and management expertise
to bear for the sport. A fourth
factor may have been that the sports market is less crowded in New Zealand,
with fewer football codes in particular competing for attention. A fifth suggestion was media
Some 10 or 11 years ago apparently there was a network executive
who took a punt. Netball in New Zealand
was no different from netball in Australia...
He took the punt, put his job on the line and said, 'If this sport does not
rate or we do not get ratings, I am happy to lose my job.' What happened from
that day was that the sport rated, and then the television networks decided it
was a good idea to invest in it... The television networks were the ones who
took the leap of faith.
It is likely that many factors influenced the process
by which netball has become widely watched and widely reported in New
Henley, a New
Zealand sports media researcher, has
undertaken detailed analysis of media coverage of women's sport in New
In her submission, Margaret Henley
argued that a combination of initial broadcasting opportunities, and a
leadership within the sport that saw televised coverage as a priority for the
game, were critical to netball's success. She recognised that netball's initial
opportunities for broadcast, while making it the envy of many women's sports
a fragile position which had to be continually fought for by the
Netball executive at the time. Within this Executive body there was a small
group of farsighted women such as Marjorie Jenden, who correctly assessed that
if the sport didn't fight for a greater share from the broadcaster and demand
greater respect for the value of the game, that it would be forever locked
within a paternalistic relationship with the broadcaster and the sport would
not flourish in the future.
They were unshakable in their belief that the survival of the
sport depended on continued and increased exposure on television, and were
realistic enough to recognise that the sport itself had to make changes making
it more attractive the broadcaster.
Netball's evolution in New Zealand, particularly since
its ratings success in 1999, have not put netball on the same footing as the
major male sporting codes, such as rugby union. However, the high ratings,
higher player pay and higher profile of the sport are clear, and appear clearly
related to the capacity to maintain good quality live broadcasts on national
The media successes of some sportswomen, some events,
and some sports – such as netball in New Zealand
– show that better coverage is possible. The question is how it can be
Improving coverage of women's sport: the options
The committee agrees with many witnesses, that media
coverage of women's sport is poor and improving only extremely slowly. It notes
the concerns of Ms Mickan,
that given the great successes of women in sport in recent years, there is even
scope for the coverage to deteriorate from current already low levels. Indeed, the data from the An Illusory Image report and the
Premier's Council of South Australia suggests that print media coverage may
have already declined from 1996 to the present day.
Improving media coverage is also important because it
is inextricably linked to other issues in women's sport. It is tied into issues
of the financing of women's sport, which in turn affects the capacity of sports
to be professional, the availability of female role models the encouragement
women get to participate, the quality of venues available, and so on.
The committee recognises that governments are already
doing things that help ensure better media coverage of sport. First, the
charter of the ABC requires it to 'broadcasting programs that contribute to a
sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural
diversity of, the Australian community'
and in responding to this, it broadcasts significant amounts of women's sport.
Both women's bowls and netball are benefiting from the broadcast of national
and international games on ABC channels, as are other sports played by women.
Second, the government is planning for the future of
television to include multichannelling (already undertaken by the ABC), which
will ensure more television channels are available to viewers. As these
channels become available, their owners will be looking for new content. This
will create new opportunities for sports that currently may be being 'crowded
out' by the many existing, well-funded men's sports.
Third, government is supporting leadership and
development activities in sports organisations, through its Sport Leadership
Grants for Women, as well as having run education programs to assist women's
sports in dealing with the media.
Nevertheless, the committee accepts that more can and
should be done to promote women's sport in the media, and to give women a
greater chance of being professional sportspeople.
Better coverage through growth in
There may be scope for the coverage of women's sport to
be improved through the increasing availability of additional channels, both
through subscription television and through multichanneling, which is set to be
introduced progressively in the next three years. The ABC for example notes that:
If the multichannel genre restrictions are lifted later this
year, as planned, ABC2 will be able to broadcast international women’s sporting
events, including games between Australia
and New Zealand
and potentially the World Cup qualifier.
It is true that subscription television sports
channels, such as Fox Sports 1 and 2, have limited reach. Less than a quarter
of households have subscription television,
and not all of those would have sports channels. Furthermore, the ratings of subscription
sports channels are dwarfed by those of the main free-to-air broadcasters. Nevertheless, recent figures from
the ABC do demonstrate that increased coverage of women's sport is one possible
outcome from the availability of extra channels (see Table 6.1, above).
Better coverage through regulating
Media content regulation for television broadcasting
was frequently suggested to this committee.
This possibility was tentatively examined by the House of Representatives
Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in 1992. That committee
the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal inquire into whether there
is an 'adequate and comprehensive coverage' of women in sport in the media and
consider whether there is a need to establish a program standard for the
coverage of women in sport.
The government responded indicating it supported this
in principle, and agreed to pass the recommendation on to the then newly
created Australian Broadcasting Authority.
At around the same time, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal released a study
of people's perceptions of television. This study showed that, when it came to
sport, there was significant support for the broadcast of more women's sport. However, this was also a period when
the regulation of programming was increasingly being devolved to broadcasters,
and it is not clear that this issue was taken further by any party.
Content regulation requiring certain amounts of women's
sport to be broadcast could be similar in nature to some other content
regulation already in place. The Commercial Television Code of Practice already
regulates content in a number of ways, such as the placement and timing of
commercials, the nature of news and current affairs coverage, and what sort of
programs can be shown at what time with respect to program classification.
Australian content is regulated through the Broadcasting Services (Australian
Content) Standard 2005, which is a legislative instrument under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. It requires minimum levels of
Australian content in general, but also regulates some types of content, and
the times in which it must be broadcast.
Baum had raised the concern that requiring
minimum coverage could encourage people to report any sport, however obscure,
just to meet the quota. This is
highly unlikely to be a problem. Whatever the regulatory requirements, media
outlets will work to maximise their profits, which in broadcasting will mean
ensuring audiences are as large as possible. One of the strengths of a quota
system in fact could be in harnessing the skills and ambition of broadcasters
toward making the coverage as good as possible, simply because they will be
disadvantaged commercially if they fail.
Nevertheless, some witnesses had misgivings about
regulation that required some sport broadcasting to be women's sport. The WA
Sports Federation opposed broadcasting regulation:
There should be no regulation of the media regarding what is
published or produced re sport coverage. Public support for a sport or event
will determine what the media covers. If increased media coverage of women’s
sport, or any activity for that matter, is a priority for government then
government should do more by way of education, promotion and implementation of
support systems to increase the public interest.
It is also clear that implementing such regulation
would be difficult, as was acknowledged by some of its supporters. This would be a regulatory
balancing act that would be hard to get right, and easy to get wrong.
Furthermore, it would be hard to implement a level regulatory playing field
between the commercial broadcasters, the ABC, SBS and the subscription
services, and probably impossible to extend it across television, radio and
print journalism. There are also risks to women's sports if they are dragged
into broadcasting before they are ready, and put on show purely because
regulations required it. Requiring television channels to broadcast women's
sport might result in them just increasing the use of overseas content.
Australian television could end up with more women's sport, but less Australian
sport, with no benefits for Australian women players. In any case, netball in New
Zealand has demonstrated that it is possible
to achieve significant media coverage without it being forced by heavy-handed
The committee also believes that broadcasting is
changing, particularly through the introduction of multichanneling, and that
now might not be a good time to introduce new content regulation. To give just
one example, it is possible that forcing some existing free-to-air channels to
host women's sport broadcasting might undermine the ability of some
subscription television channels and production companies to forge links with
sporting organisations to produce women's sporting competitions for niche
markets. If this happened, Australia
could end up with reluctant free-to-air broadcasters grudgingly doing a
second-rate job of producing some women's sport, instead of enthusiastic
partnerships between sport and media working to bring first-rate sports
productions to audiences through digital channels or pay television. Both
approaches might result in a certain number of hours of women's sport being
broadcast, but enthusiastic partnerships are likely to be more sustainable.
While the committee would like to see more coverage of women's sport, it is not
convinced that regulation is the right approach to achieving it.
Better coverage through
partnerships of sporting and media organisations
Success in creating a nationally broadcast league
competition is likely to require the backing of a national sporting
organisation, a broadcaster, and probably both. Broadcast of the WNBA in the USA
is strongly backed by the National Basketball Association. While still
struggling to achieve large audiences, the WNBA is growing and appears
entrenched as a broadcast sport, with games on both free-to-air and
subscription television. A
similar example at the other end of the scale is that of lawn bowls in Australia,
where equal coverage of women's bowls on the ABC was achieved by Bowls
Australia taking a stand and making that a condition of the broadcast deal.
A contrasting situation can be seen in the
international organisation for football, Fédération Internationale de Football
Association (FIFA), and its limited support for the women's game. FFA pointed
out that when a men's team qualifies for the World Cup and makes the second
round, as Australia
recently did, it receives 9.5 million Swiss francs from FIFA. A women's team
with a similar achievement receives nothing. Given how widespread and popular
the women's game is internationally, this is a disappointing approach for FIFA
to take. If even well-resourced sporting organisations such as FIFA will not
back their women's codes, then they will find it very difficult to develop.
This is reflected in the widespread disappointment expressed about poor
coverage of the Matildas' success in qualifying
for the women's World Cup.
Sporting organisations frequently lack the resources to
try something new or to provide any significant funding that would help achieve
media coverage. Some are stretched to put on a national league, even though
they have teams and programs in every state. However there was confidence that
they could make progress if the resources were there.
The committee acknowledges the concluding remarks of
the Women in Sport Media Group when it urged this inquiry:
to bring the benefits of regular increased media coverage on
women's sport to the fore in its report and to recommend the adoption of
strategies that will change the media scene for women in sport.
The committee also notes the ASC's view, that '[i]f
Government were to increase investment in womens sport then opportunities to
broadcast women's events would be a worthwhile investment'. The committee believes this is an
area in which the government can have a constructive influence.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government
provide financial support, to be administered by the Australian Sports
Commission, for initiatives that provide specific opportunities for greater
ongoing coverage of women's sport. The committee believes the ASC should
administer funding of up to $3 million per annum, and that the initiative be
reviewed after approximately three years.
One model for this support could involve sporting
organisations forming partnerships with broadcasters, and then approaching the
ASC with proposals. The ASC would provide support to partnerships that result
in agreed media coverage outcomes.
The committee received a submission from the Australian
Paralympic Committee (APC), regarding scope for coverage of the forthcoming
Paralympic events in Beijing in
has a significant Paralympic team, and is currently preparing for the Beijing
Media coverage of the Paralympic Games in Athens
cost the APC over $380 000, and the APC indicated that '[n]o network would
cover disabled sport without a direct payment to assist in the production and
The committee recognises the concerns expressed by
Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), that women with disabilities must
overcome both gender and disability barriers in seeking to participate in
sporting or recreational activities.
This difficulty in participating and training may be reflected in the fact that
women form a slightly smaller proportion of the Paralympic team compared to the
Olympic team (39 per cent of Paralympic athletes versus 43 per cent of Olympic athletes
at Athens in 2004). The committee
notes that the APC recently ran a National Talent Search, and that one third of
the 604 athletes identified in that process were women, highlighting the need
to engage more women with disabilities in sporting activities.
Making sport visible, and holding up inspiring sporting
role models, are important parts of the process of encouraging participation,
and the committee believes that televising good quality coverage of the
Paralympics would be a positive step. This would be a suitable example of a
situation where a sporting organisation and a broadcaster could partner, and in
that context the government could provide support.
The committee recommends that the government consider
allocating up to $1 million to the Australian Paralympic Committee to assist
with production and associated costs of televised coverage of the forthcoming
Paralympics, and that the arrangement stipulate that a condition of accessing
this funding be that there be balanced coverage of male and female athletes.
Better coverage through enhanced
skills and commitment
As well as making sufficient commitments to women's
teams and competitions, improvements can also be achieved in media awareness.
This is an area in which the committee felt media organisations and sporting
organisations all bear some responsibilities. As the Women in Sport Media Group
Our group acknowledges that a more consistent effort needs to be
made by the sports administrators themselves and we have taken steps to
introduce strategies for workshops and so on, as mentioned in our submission.
But we are also cognisant of the fact that editorial staff and producers have
the say about scheduling and programming. They might make deals with certain
parties and they are the ones to decide that one event rates more highly than
another, and it is sometimes very hard to get through that.
The development of good relationships between media and
sport has been a strong theme in past and current inquiries. Premier Media Group, who produce
pay-TV sports, commented that:
We see our relationship with the sports administrations and the
sports as a partnership, and the better organised they are and the more
professionally organised the better outcomes are achieved for them and for us.
The committee also heard that media awareness of
women's sport needs to be raised. One suggestion was a:
summit of some of these key people in the media and looking at
how they make policies about scheduling and yet are not flexible enough to fit
in a Matildas’ exciting final game or something like that, and just to look at
some of those avenues and maybe open their eyes to what I say are so many
stories and things out there. Once the media get a hold of them and lap them up,
the audiences would follow.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government
provide financial support, to be administered by the Australian Sports
Commission, for the training of athletes and sports administrators to better
utilise media opportunities.
Increasing the level of training and skills in
organisations promoting women's sport will help improve media coverage. However
it will only be effective if NSOs are serious about backing their women's
competitions with resources and commitment. The committee saw varying degrees
of commitment amongst these groups and calls on them to ensure they are
providing appropriate backing for women's leagues.
News and sport
media organisations also need to employ female professionals and make
commitments to reporting newsworthy women's sport. Given the extraordinarily
low levels of reporting by some media outlets, this is likely to involve them
reconsidering their idea of what constitutes 'newsworthy'. This need for change
within media organisations was widely recognised, not only by women's sport
individuals and organisations, but mainstream sporting groups such as the
Professional Golfers Association.
The committee is disappointed at the continuing poor
coverage of women's sport by all media. It believes that if the recommendations
in this report are implemented by the government, sport and recreation
organisations, and media outlets they will make a significant contribution to
improving the media profile of women's sports. However, it also acknowledges
that improvements in media coverage of women's sport have been slow in the
past. If the situation has not improved by 2010 in response to this report, it
suggests that the Senate refer the issue back to the committee for further
review. To track progress, the committee suggests that the ASC undertake an
annual survey of coverage of women's sports.
The committee recommends that the government fund the
Australian Sports Commission to replicate in 2008–09 the surveys and analysis
performed in the 1996 report An Illusory
Senator Andrew Bartlett
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