On 13 February 2018, as broadcasters around the globe commemorated World Radio Day, UNESCO highlighted the considerable power of radio sports coverage to shape norms and stereotypes about gender. It says radio can be used to promote balanced coverage of men’s and women’s sports, and provide a fair portrayal of sportspeople irrespective of gender.
The 2015 Global Media Monitoring Report found that only 4% of sports media content is dedicated to women’s sport while only 12% of sports news is presented by women. Additionally, women represent only 7% of sportspeople portrayed in the media.
Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, says her organisation is working to improve the coverage of women’s sports, to combat gender discrimination on the airwaves and to promote equal opportunities in sports media.
It is perhaps no surprise that the sports broadcasting industry is as dominated by men as the wider world of sports itself. However, the UNESCO-supported Global Media Monitoring Project painted an especially grim picture for gender equality in sports coverage. Only 12% of sports stories are reported by women, and sport was found to be the single least likely topic to be presented by women out of more than fifty topics studied.
For sports media, the severe lack of women commentators, the scarce coverage of women’s competitions and the promotion of narrow gender stereotypes represents not only a challenge to media pluralism and objectivity – it is to be complicit in the limiting of options for all people to express themselves and live the life they choose.
While some encouraging progress can be seen in some areas, new practices for sports coverage are needed that provide equal opportunities for broadcasters, offer fair portrayal of women and men athletes, and celebrate all athletes regardless of gender.