This House would force the media to display, promote and report women’s sport equally to men’s sport.

The world of sport is almost entirely divided between men’s and women’s categories. However men’s sport has always dominated all forms of media coverage despite the fact that women also compete in those exact same sport (increasingly on a professional level). This includes live broadcasting, newspaper and internet articles and reports, news coverage etc. For example, in the USA women’s sports receive a total of 1.6% of sports airtime on local TV and sports media giant ESPN. [1] A similar story is noticed in Australian sports media where women’s sports coverage totalled 9% compared to 81% on men’s sports. [2] In the written press the numbers are similarly skewed. Between 1998 and 2009, 303 articles were published on women’s football in the British press. Putting this into context, in the same time span 388 articles were published on Coventry City FC (a lower league British club) alone. [3] What’s important to note with the examples given is that they are all taken from countries that have a relatively large participation and interest in women’s sports. Paradoxically, although the level of participation of girls and women in sport has increased significantly over the past decades this does not appear to have transposed onto increased airtime for women’s sports. Indeed some studies have shown the opposite has occurred and the gap in coverage between men’s and women’s sport has widened. [4] The only notable exceptions to the male domination in the world of sport are in the Olympic Games where coverage is equal irrespective of gender, and to a lesser extent Grand Slam Tennis where coverage is roughly equal but the men’s competitions still carry more prestige.

[1] Deggans, Eric: “Continued apathy by sports media toward women’s sport a bigger problem than first meets the eye”, National Sports Journalism Centre, June 8 2010.

[2]  Australian Government, “Women’s Place in Society”, 2009, cited in Ford, Tom: “Is media coverage of women’s sport equal in quantity and quality to that of men’s?” , accessed 7/9/2012.

[3] Turner, Georgina, “Fair play for women’s sport”, The Guardian, 24 January 2009.

[4] Deggans, Eric: “Continued apathy by sports media toward women’s sport a bigger problem than first meets the eye”, National Sports Journalism Centre, June 8 2010.

Title 
The sports world is unfairly dominated by a male-orientated world-view.
Point 

Sport is dominated by a male-orientated world view. This is the case in two respects:

  1. In terms of the way sports media is run. Sports media are almost entirely run by men, who somewhat inevitably are more interested in men’s sport.[1] In the news media for example only 27% of top management jobs were held by women.[2] In addition, women who enter  the world of sports media are subjected to those male-orientated perceptions. For them to succeed as journalists they feel a need to cover men’s sport. [3] These two factors explain why the gap between media coverage of men’s and women’s sport is not closing despite the increase in participation and interest in women’s sport.
  2. The media dictates what is “newsworthy”. Public opinion is hugely influenced by the media. Stories, events or sports that receive a large amount of coverage give the impression to the public that they are important issues that are worthy of being reported on. Similarly, sports that are not covered appear to the public as being of lesser importance. This applies in the case of women’s sport which in the male-dominated world of sport media will always be perceived as of lesser importance.

This male dominated world-view is unfair on female athletes. Sport is supposed to be a celebration of the human mind and body, and it is right that athletes that push themselves to the brink in search for glory receive due praise. The hugely skewed coverage of sport against women’s sports caused by the male world-view in the media is hugely unfair on female athletes, as they do not get the deserved recognition their male counterparts receive.  

[1] Turner, Georgina, “Fair play for women’s sport”, The Guardian, 24 January 2009.

[2] ‘Global Report: Men Occupy Majority of Management Jobs in News Companies’, International Women’s Media Foundation.

[3] Creedon, Pamela J.: “Women, Sport, and Media Institutions: Issues in Sports Journalism and Marketing”, taken from Media Sport, Wenner, Lawrence A. (ed), Routledge, 1998.

Counterpoint 

The skew in media coverage is not down to personal preferences of sports journalists. If journalists simply reported on what interested them, media companies would not be very successful. Instead, they focus on reporting on sporting events that are more popular and are likely to attract more public attention. The large amount of media coverage of women’s sport in the Olympic Games and Tennis Grand Slams is testimony to this point. It shows that sports journalists are not all subconsciously sexist as the proposition might suggest, they simply cover what they deem to be appropriate and of interest to the public. The Olympics and Wimbledon are sufficiently high-profile to warrant high coverage of the women’s events. The national women’s football league in the UK, however, does not.

Moreover, media coverage is not a matter of fairness as the proposition suggest. It is to do with popularity. If fairness was the main priority, then media would have to cover all stories no-matter what their significance to the general public, to the same level. This would simply be pointless and impractical.  

Title 
Increased media coverage changes public perceptions towards gender roles and women’s sport.
Point 

The male world-view which dominates sports media and conveys to the public that women’s sport are inferior to men’s reinforce traditional gender stereotypes and deter young girls from becoming active in sport. Gender perceptions have obviously come a long way in the last 100 years, but the media classification of women’s sport as inferior to men’s is severely slowing this progress in the field of sport.

Humans are social beings with esteem needs, and as social beings we like to be viewed in a positive light by our peers. This is best achieved on a general level by conforming to social expectations and norm. This also applies for societal conceptions of gender. The fact that the media deems women’s sport to be of lesser importance which (as we have seen) conveys to the public this message, reinforces the notion that sport is not a worthwhile activity for women and girls. Instead, it is an activity more appropriate for men and boys. This kind of discourse has the effect of moulding gender identities both in terms of how men perceive women and how women perceive themselves. In this way, the lack of media coverage of women’s sport fuels a self-affirming perception of gender which effectively denies many young girls a realistic choice of becoming engaged in sport as perceptions affect confidence in one’s ability; as a result of this gender bias boys as young as six rate themselves as being much more competent in sports than girls do.[1]

By forcing the media to provide equal coverage of both men’s and women’s sport, we take an effective step in breaking these societal discourses and transforming gender perceptions. This is because increased coverage will make sport seem like a worthwhile activity for girls and women. As more women take part in sport, this has a further cyclical effect of re-affirming gender conceptions around sport which, in turn, induces further women to become engaged in sport.  This is a desirable outcome from the government’s perspective because sport has a positive impact on the health of those who are physically active. Those who are physically active are not only less likely to suffer from things like Coronary Heart Disease and cancer, but they have also been shown to lead more psychologically happy lives due to the endorphins released while exercising, and the joy of feeling physically fit.

[1] Jacobs, Janis E., and Eccles, Jacquelynne S., ‘The Impact of Mopthers’ Gender-Role Stereotypic Beliefs on Mothers’ and Children’s Ability Perceptions’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 63, No. 6, 1992, pp.932-944, p.934.

Counterpoint 

The proposition is wrong in assuming that increased media coverage will have the drastic effects it claims on changing public perceptions towards women’s sport. The problem with lack of interest in women’s sport is not caused by a lack of media coverage. It is because of deep-rooted social conceptions of gender roles and sport (as the prop have acknowledged). Sports like figure-skating and gymnastics have traditionally been viewed as female-appropriate whereas high-contact sports like football, rugby, American football or basketball are generally seen as male-appropriate. [1]

Crucially, the proposition are wrong in claiming that such social perceptions are easily changed. Simply providing more media coverage will not have the proposition’s desired effects. In the United States increased participation by women in sport has not lead to changes in perceptions so it seems unlikely media coverage will.[2] This is what was observed when the newly formed Women’s Soccer Association (WSA) in the United States which signed a lucrative TV-rights agreement in 1999. This proved to be overly ambitious for the WSA which, despite having a huge amount of air-time, failed to generate interest and viewer ratings were very low. Subsequently, the WSA collapsed in 2003 setting women’s professional soccer in the USA back immensely. [3]

This is evidence that media coverage cannot change public perceptions in the way the proposition wants. Instead, increased funding to development programs for women’s sport and, more importantly, time are what is needed. Over the last decades, women’s sport has moved on from female-appropriate sports only, to sports like tennis, athletics and swimming that are now largely seen as gender-neutral. This is clear evidence that women’s sport is heading in the right direction despite the fact that media coverage is low. It time, contact sports traditionally viewed as male-appropriate will also become normalised for women.

[1] Cavanaugh, Maureen and Crook, Hank: “Why Women’s Sports Struggle to Gain Popularity”, These Days Archive, KPBS, July 27, 2009.

[2] Hardin, Marie, and Greer, Jennifer D., ‘The Influence of Gender-role Socialization, Media Use and Sports Participation on Perceptions of Gender-Appropriate Sports’, Journal of Sport Behavior, Vol.32 No.2.

[3] Cavanaugh, Maureen and Crook, Hank: “Why Women’s Sports Struggle to Gain Popularity”, These Days Archive, KPBS, July 27, 2009.

Title 
Increased media coverage creates more role models for young girls to engage in sport.
Point 

A more obvious problem with the limited coverage of women’s sport is the distinct lack of sports role models available as sources of inspiration for girls. Having sports role models is crucial for children to attain the desire and motivation to partake in sport. Boys often want to be like Lionel Messi in football, or Lebron James in basketball. Boys can access such figureheads because they are world famous. Their sporting achievements and prowess are glorified in all forms of media and people can very easily watch them play their sport live on TV. The same does not exist for girls because female athletes receive nowhere near as much media attention as their male counterparts. Girls often can’t even name any female sports stars so lack role models in sport.[1] Although it is true that children can have role models of either sex, the divide in the sports world between men’s and women’s sports means girls cannot aspire to compete alongside the likes of Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps.

The successes of British female athletes like Rebecca Adlington, Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendleton, or the young Katie Ledecky from the USA in the recent Olympics have captured the hearts and imagination of a huge number of young girls across the UK and already, as local sports centres and athletics clubs have seen participation amongst girls soar during and after the London Olympics. This is no coincidence – it is because of the media attention and glorification female athletes receive. The Olympic Games are an example of what equal media coverage of men’s and women’s sport can achieve, The equal coverage of Grand Slam tennis and the subsequent glorification of the likes of Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams is another example. We must take action to provide the same sort of role models across all sporting events.

[1] ‘Girls’ attitudes explored… Role models’, Girlguiding UK, 2012, p.14

Counterpoint 

The proposition themselves have mentioned three examples of female athletes that are excellent role models for young girls. The huge publicity received by female athletes at the Olympic Games alone, but also at Tennis Grand Slams indicates that there are already sufficient sporting role models for girls to admire. Of course more would be better but this should not come about through mandatory extra coverage.

If the proposition’s concern lies in the lack of female role models in traditionally masculine sports like football, then the proposition are still going about this the wrong way. You cannot simply artificially create role models. Sporting heroes may be glorified by the media, but they are not made by them. For a sporting hero to be glorified, the athlete needs to prove himself or herself as exceptional in his or her field and distinguish him or herself. When relatively unknown athletes and sports teams do distinguish themselves, they receive due credit and glorification in the media. Examples include the victory of the USA Women’s soccer team winning the world cup in 1999, and Ireland’s remarkably successful campaign in the 2007 cricket world cup. Both were relatively minor sports with low fan bases and did receive media coverage for their achievements. This indicates that the status quo is sufficient for providing role models even in more niche sports. The proposition may complain that the media attention in such situations is always short-lived, but this is only natural. As we saw with the example of women’s soccer in the USA, media coverage where demand remains limited is unsustainable.

Title 
Increased media coverage will lead to increased funding towards women’s sport
Point 

Increased media coverage will lead to more money going into women’s sport. This will happen for several reasons.

  1. In the short-term, increased media coverage means more money from advertising and sponsorship, both through the media and directly sponsoring sporting events, clubs and athletes. Increased media involvement also generates revenue for sports in the form of TV and radio licenses (i.e. broadcasting rights). Importantly, as women’s sport increases in popularity, so will the competitiveness to secure sponsorship deals and TV rights in those sports. [2] This will further push up the amount of funding going into women’s sport.
  2. The Government invests in social projects it deems to be worthwhile. As we have seen, the media has a huge influence in forming public opinion as to what constitutes a worthwhile activity. Thus, increased media coverage will create more demand for increased government funding in women’s sport. This phenomenon was observed in the Government funding that went towards the British Olympic team. The increased popularity in the Olympics led to huge increases in funding for the Beijing and London Olympics. [1]

Increased Government funding is desirable because it leads to better facilities and coaching, increased public awareness, increased participation and, ultimately, in improved results on the sporting field (as was seen in both Beijing and London for team GB).

[1] UK Government, London 2012 Funding, accessed 7/9/2012.

[2] Cavanaugh, Maureen and Crook, Hank: “Why Women’s Sports Struggle to Gain Popularity”, These Days Archive, KPBS, July 27, 2009.

Counterpoint 

The unpopularity of the events sports media would be forced to cover would mean less money, not more money going into sports. This is because incentives for lucrative TV rights deals, sponsorships and advertising only exist where there is a high expectation of positive returns for the advertisers and media companies. For example, if Sky Sports feel there is not much scope in broadcasting every single women’s football league match in the UK, it is unlikely to make a particularly lucrative offer. If anything it will detract from valuable air-time that could be used to show other more popular events that are seen as more profitable.

Moreover, it is not true that media coverage is necessary to incite government funding. For example, the British Government offered for the huge amount of funding for relatively unknown sports for the Beijing and London Olympics, not because they are popular [1], but because the government independently believed it was a worthwhile investment. The fact that such government schemes have succeeded in attracting young girls despite of the lack of media coverage is indicative of this.

[1] BBC News: “Funding for Britain’s Olympic sports extended to Rio 2016”, BBC News, 12 August, 2012.

Title 
Men’s sports are more popular than women’s and so should receive more media coverage.
Point 

The role of the media is not to be a tool for the implementation of social policy. It is instead to inform the public and provide entertainment. However, it would be naïve and short-sighted to believe that the media should report and cover everything equally so as to perfectly inform the public. The nature of media coverage is such that there is a limited amount each media company can cover. There is a limit on air-time available to radio and TV stations and there is a limit to the number of pages newspapers can print. Media companies thus have to make a choice regarding what to report and to what extent. It makes sense for more coverage to be offered for stories and events that are deemed to be of greater importance by the general public (irrespective of its objective value). For example, news about local flooding in Queensland Australia may be hugely important for Australians, but considerably less so for people in Europe or the Americas. Similarly, a British victory at the World Schools Debating Championships would not be (by and large) seen as important as a British victory in the Football or Rugby World Cup. We would thus expect the media to cover each story according to its popularity. Given the considerably lower public interest in most women’s sport compared to men’s, it thus makes sense for men’s to receive more media coverage. That coverage is based on popularity rather than media bias is shown by more than two thirds of media reports not in any way enhancing stereotypes, the media are therefore not specifically discriminating against women in sport.[1]

[1] ‘Sports, Media and Stereotypes Women and Men in Sports and Media’, Centre for Gender Equality, 2006, p.19.

Counterpoint 

The media can and often is used as a tool for public policy. Examples of this include the broadcasting of public information campaigns against drink-driving or smoking or else bans on certain advertising such as smoking advertisements or sponsorship appearing on TV.[1] What’s more the government has a huge influence in what it deems to be worthwhile news or television programs and documentaries. This is because of the existence of state controlled media organisations, like the BBC, and on a more subtle level, with the imposition on restrictions as to what can and cannot be published or broadcast.

The media coverage inequality between women and men’s sport is a different issue to that made out by the opposition. Floods in Queensland Australia are more relevant to Australians than Europeans because they are more likely to have been affected by them. Women’s sports, however, are potentially as relevant to people’s lives as men’s sports. The increased participation in women’s sport indicates that media coverage is likely to be relevant to more and more people. Even if this was not the case women’s sport should still get air time; with the internet and digital TV it is wrong to suggest that more coverage of women’s sport will come at the expense of men’s sports as there is enough airspace.

[1] ‘Law ends UK tobacco sponsorship’, BBC News, 31 July 2005.

Title 
Women’s sports do not provide the same economic incentives for media coverage as men’s.
Point 

Media coverage is dependent on one crucial factor: financial incentiveThe journalism industry is hugely competitive and media companies constantly have to compete with rivals for viewers and numbers of papers and magazines sold, often just in order to survive. [1] This is important for two reasons. Firstly because more sales obviously means more revenue, and secondly because the volume of sales or viewers attracts more money from advertisers and sponsors who want to maximise the exposure of their adverts to the general public. Therefore, for media companies to prosper, they must cover subjects that are most popular and likely to receive most attention by the public.

Given the difference in popularity between women and men’s sport, media companies have to focus on men’s sporting events as that will largely enable them to compete with rivals and secure greater revenue.

[1] Creedon, Pamela J.: “Women, Sport, and Media Institutions: Issues in Sports Journalism and Marketing”, taken from Media Sport, Wenner, Lawrence A. (ed), Routledge, 1998.

Counterpoint 

The lack of financial incentive to provide media coverage of women’s sporting event is not a reason to not go ahead with this motion. There is often no financial incentive to provide basic welfare needs or provide funding for the development of pharmaceuticals, but the government still pursues such endeavours. In such cases, extra financial incentives can be provided to private companies from the part of the government, or the government itself may be in charge of the scheme. In the case of sports media, state run media do not require a financial incentive to provide equal coverage, while private media companies could either be provided with benefits for covering women’s sport and/or disincentivised from not providing equal coverage by having sufficiently heavy fines in place.  

Title 
Equalising media coverage will cause a drop in funding for sport in general
Point 

The proposition have acknowledged that media coverage is a crucial source of revenue for sport in the form of sponsorship deals and TV rights. However, forcing media companies to provide equal coverage of men’s and women’s sport, inevitably leads to a thoroughly imperfect and inefficient market within the sports media industry. Sponsors and advertisers would not be as inclined to spend money on media coverage since they would deem that their advertising would reach fewer people and so have less of an impact. Moreover, sports newspapers and magazines are likely to suffer since the vast majority of readers are men interested in men’s sports.

The consequences of an impaired sports media industry would have negative effects on both women’s and men’s sport because they will receive less funding. Let us examine how the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is funded, as a case study. The overwhelming majority of the ECB’s funds come from TV rights sales. In 2012 alone contracts were signed with Sky and ESPN worth a total of £385 million. [1] Forcing these media giants to show an equal amount of women’s cricket as men’s would be destructive simply because interest in women’s cricket is nowhere near as high. Consequently, the ECB would see its TV rights value slashed and its income severely lowered.

A similar story to this described above would ensue with many other team sports like football and rugby where the men’s sport has a huge fan base. The result would be hugely diminished funding for all facets of sport, most likely including women’s. Consequently, all the benefits the proposition are trying to achieve with this motion would not be achieved, and if anything one would observe a decline in participation and standards of facilities and coaching. This is because the development, facilities and grass roots programs funded by organisations like the ECB and the Football Association (FA) are all funded from the same pool of money, whether the income has come from men’s or women’s sport. Crucially, this explains the proposition’s identification of growing female participation in sport while media coverage remains low. 

[1] Hoult, Nick: “England and Wales Cricket Board to step up security in wke of new £125m Asian TV rights deal”, The Telegraph, 17 May, 2012.

Counterpoint 

The government can to a degree cover for any potential drop in funding from private sector sources. Focus can remain on developing grass-roots and sports at schools in order to incentivise new generations of athletes, so the harms mentioned by the opposition will by and large not occur. In time, popularity of women’s sport will increase such that it will once again attract large lucrative TV rights deals and large investments from sponsors.

It must also be mentioned that the opposition to an extent present a false dichotomy with their argument. Increased coverage of women’s sport need not take valuable air time away from more popular men’s sport in the way the opposition claims. Matches can be scheduled so that they do not clash with each other, and more TV channels can be created (such as the BBC’s red button service). Additionally, air-time is often packed trivial stories and programs other than popular men’s sporting events. Examples from American TV include reports ‘on supremely unhealthy hamburgers on sale at a minor league baseball parks or basketball star Shaquille O’Neal’s contest with a 93-year-old woman’ [1]. Such programs could easily and painlessly be replaced with women’s sporting news or live broadcasting.

[1] Deggans, Eric: “Continued apathy by sports media toward women’s sport a bigger problem than first meets the eye”, National Sports Journalism Centre, June 8 2010.

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