Media fail to give female athletes a podium finish

Amanda Obst Roar Rookie

By , Amanda Obst is a Roar Rookie

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    The title for the most successful gender at the 2008 Olympic Games goes to the females, but in media coverage they come dead last.

    This needs to be addressed in the forthcoming London Olympic Games.

    If we take a look at the Beijing Olympics, Australia took home a total of 46 medals; the men took 22 (48 percent), while the women won 24 (52 percent).

    It was a gallant effort by all, but why is there still gender bias when it comes to the media?

    The medal count is fairly even and should therefore dictate a similar coverage percentage. Wrong.

    According to the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) statistics, male sport received 41 percent of coverage, compared to just 34 percent for women.

    What sort of a message is this sending to our children? One that females are inferior to males, that their success is not as important?

    In Australia we already have the issue of low participation rates in sport at a grass-roots level, not to mention the lack of female participation.

    In a 2009 report from the ABS it showed that almost half of girls aged five to 14 do not participate in any sport aside from school. There is a direct correlation between the lack of female role models portrayed in the media and the lack of female interest in sport.

    This needs to be fixed.

    This sexism begins with everyday journalism and is not limited to the international stage.

    Just nine percent of Australian sports reporting is focused on women, while 81 percent of coverage is dedicated to male sports.

    This was determined by the federal government’s report, titled ‘Towards a Level Playing Field: sport and gender in Australian media’.

    Male sports receive nine times the coverage of women, an astounding figure. It isn’t any wonder that Olympic coverage is one-sided.

    Journalists are more focused on ratings and selling papers than the messages they are sending out to the nation and to the future generation.

    According to the results obtained from the ‘International Sports Press Survey 2005′, only two percent of the stories written by male jouranlists are written about female sports.

    We also see a male dominance on national sporting organisation boards. According to data supplied by the ASC, just 25 percent of board memberships are filled by women.

    We need to work on breaking the glass-ceiling and promoting sports journalism to females.

    The 2005 survey also showed that out of all stories written by female journalists, 12.3 percent are based on women’s sport.

    In attempting to break the barrier journalists are sure to increase the coverage of female sport, in turn creating role models from young girls and improving grass-roots participation.

    Yet Channel Nine, the official broadcaster of the 2012 Olympics, has included only one female in their official presenting team. That woman is Leila McKinnon, who incidentally happens to be the wife of Channel Nine CEO David Gyngell.

    She will be joined by Mark Nicholas, Karl Stefanovic, Eddie McGuire, Ken Sutcliffe and Cameron Williams. Again we see a very male-dominated arena.

    Australian media organisations need to set a precedent which then forms the platform for Olympic reporting.

    We are no longer living in the 1950s. We need to promote equity through opportunities for female reporters, as well as through coverage of female sports.

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