The past blogs in this series have analysed the evolution of media types over the past decades, and how they’re using sport to increase fan engagement, but it is now important to dissect what type of content they are delivering.
As we all know, media is one of the biggest forms of communication within our society, however, Perderson (2002, cited in Trolan, 2013) believes that consequently it is also one of the most influential in creating gender inequalities. Sport is no exception to these inequalities as woman are considered by their gender prior to their athleticism, whereas their counterparts are represented as outright athletes (Trolan, 2013).
The under-representation of women in sport
Regardless of the high increase of participation of women within sport over the last decades, there is still great disparities in the depth of media coverage of female athletes due within an intensely commercialised sport environment (Lisec and McDonald, 2012). For example, in 2004 only 2% of ESPN’s SportCenter airtime was devoted to women’s sports which decreased to only 1% 5 years later (Lisec and McDonald, 2012).
Lisec and McDonald (2012) go on to explain that when women’s sport are eventually broadcasted, they are then represented in a totally different way to their male counterparts. Women’s coverage focuses on the physical appearance of the athlete rather than their sporting skill or success, due to the commercial gains a broadcaster can gain from their hyper-feminine and hyper-sexualised qualities (Kane, et al., 2013., cited in Schailee, 2021).
So, who’s to blame?
Now we have identified the history of the under-representation of women within sport media, we now have to start to analyse the reasons for this and who is to blame for such a gap in coverage.
The term content agnostic, coined by Borghol et al., 2012, are the factors which determine whether an image, post, video will become popular and will be seen by X amount of people. As with newspapers back in the day, authors and publishers are still after the biggest scoops that will attract the largest audience and therefore, sadly there are more concerned with the number of eyes and clicks they gain rather than the content itself. Due to this preconceived theory that sport is a man’s game, men’s sporting achievements and latest news stories are the most popular for creators to publish as they believe this is what will bring them the most viewers. So, are the authors to blame?
An argument to contradict the previous point is the development of Platformisation. The process of Platformisation entails the replacement of the two-sided market structure with total domination by big platform corporations (Nieborg and Poell, 2018). In simpler terms, this means that the digital platforms (see blog 2) are the matchmakers between creator and user, therefor holding all the power to what content is delivered and forms a type of capitalism within the digital marketplace. If the content is controlled by these big corporations, does that mean they’re at fault of the inequality?
The gap between male and female athletes has shortened through the years, with some sports introducing same sex salaries, however the gap hasn’t completely closed. The question that still remains is whether this gap will remain in the years to come? What is the future for digital content in regard to equal distribution in male and female coverage? As explored in the second blog of this series, TikTok has established a strong partnership with football after it’s successful campaign at Euro 2020, but there hasn’t been a connection made between the social media giants and the women’s game. This is an example of how the gap in content coverage still remains within sport.
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