Its time to televise more women’s sport

You wouldn’t be wrong for assuming that sport was a man’s game if you were to watch a weekends sport on TV.  Each week it is pretty much the same; AFL on Seven, V8 supercars on Seven, golf on Ten, rugby on Nine, cricket on Nine, soccer on SBS and VFL on ABC. Women play most of these sports but where is their free-to-air viewing?

You can’t be blamed if you missed any of the women’s sport shown given it is only aired approxemently 1% of the time according to a Women on Boards article in 2007.

We are shown the odd netball game on Channel Ten or a few highlights during the news broadcasts on the weekend. This article is excluding Fox Sports from this argument as they are able to show sport live and replays across three channels 24 hours a day. It is also a paid service in which most people are not privileged to own.

For those who argue that women’s sport isn’t popular, look no further than an ANZ Championship netball game or the Australian Open women’s tennis tournament. Both sports are played in front of sold out crowds yet still play second fiddle to the men.

Federal Sports Minister senator Kate Lundy is pushing for a change in the amount of women’s sport shown on TV. She spoke at a Sports Without Borders conference in Melbourne on Friday about the prospect of creating a free-to-air sports channel to show Australian sports that have a lower profile.

Ms Lundy believes it will also raise the profile of woman’s sport that is desperately needed “There is no good reason for it, other than some sort of incomprehensible bias against women’s sport, given we know it rates well.

The Paralympics, the Olympics, golf and tennis are all evidence of women’s sports rating well, and yet for some reason people are not prepared to make that investment.”

The Olympics, Commonwealth Games and tennis are a few events where women are given almost equal media coverage. A study conducted by C.A Tuggle and Anne Owen in 1999 found that during NBC’s coverage of the 1996 Olympic Games, men and women were given almost equal airtime. They found that the quantity of time shown for women’s events and the amount of women’s events shown were equal to male events.

The tennis, especially at the four major championship events, is shown on an equal percentage to the men. Some have argued that women’s tennis coverage has improved due to the attractiveness of players such as Anna Kornakova, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azerenka, however this should be viewed as a positive rather than a negative.

Chris Evert, a three-time Wimbledon champion argues “there are attractive, appealing girls out there and now they realise that’s it is okay to run around and sweat and be tough. Twenty years ago it was frowned upon and wasn’t feminine.” This will hopefully increase the level of teenagers competing in sport, a point where most girls stop playing sport.

And it’s not just about giving coverage to women’s sport so then it can be watched by everyone, it’s also about giving women the opportunity to show their skills, strength and become role models to young aspiring females. A study conducted in 2006 by the Australian Senate found that only 8% of teenage girls claim to have a sport role model. It would certainly be a help if more women’s sport was televised.

The New South Wales Sport and Recreation department conducted research into media coverage of women’s sport in 1996. One statistic found that sport is watched on television by 47% of women compared to men 67%.  (While this study and a few of the other ones mentioned in the article were conducted a while ago, for the sake of the article we will assume that the statistics are similar or have improved).

It’s crazy that no one is taking the initiative of broadcasting more women’s sport when almost half of the female population in Australia is watching sport. An increase in women’s sport would only increase these numbers.

It would be safe to assume women do most of the shopping in the family. This would open a clear window of opportunity for advertising during female sport, targeting females during sport with products marketed towards them.

Anita DeFrantz, the first woman to reach the International Olympic Committee vice-presidency in 1997, said in relation to women playing sport “The good news is, finally journalists have realised that we’re here to stay. There are wonderful stories to be told.”

This comment was made back in the 1990s and still rings true today. We just need more journalists and media to spread the word so we can hear these wonderful stories.

Jackson Baker is a second year Bachelor of Journalism (Sport) student at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter @JacksonBaker9 


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