Did you know that 13 February is World Radio Ray? In 2018 UNESCO is dedicating this day to the theme of radio and sports ... and gender equality
This year marks the 7th anniversary of World Radio Day. The relationship between sports and gender, and how improved gender equality in sports broadcasting can lead to greater freedom of expression for all is one of the three sub-topics chosen by UNESCO in the broader context of radio and sports.
A number of studies show that the sports broadcasting industry remains dominated by men as is the wider world of sports itself. In 2015 the UNESCO-supported Global Media Monitoring Project painted an especially grim picture for gender equality in sports coverage. Only 12% of sports stories were 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.
This is not just a problem of quantity or balance, according to Unesco. Other studies have determined that, even when women athletes are featured, coverage can focus on “stereotypical” women’s sports such as gymnastics and volleyball, and that women’s sports events and achievements often struggle for airtime.
According to Cambridge University Press, women are far more likely to be referred to as “girls” than men as “boys”, and there is much more focus on their roles as mothers, wives or daughters. At worst, the media can concentrate on women’s physical appearances and “degrade them into sexual objects”, which the Harvard Law Review suggests could hinder media efforts to build a more diverse sporting audience, and discourage young girls from participating in sports in the first place.
Conversely, sports broadcasting is also deemed to be powerful in shaping norms for men and boys – not just about how they view women, but how they think about themselves. In a field as heavily dominated by men as sports is, and with such a large part of stereotypical “male culture” across the globe tied up in sports, there are very few other institutions with as much influence as sports broadcasting on the values and behaviours of young men growing up, says UNESCO.
Hundreds of radio stations throughout the world have organized events on this World Radio Day to discuss topics related to gender equality in sports coverage, as well as to the two other sub-topics of this year: diversity, and peace and development through sports coverage.
Interestingly, the concentration of initiatives is higher in Europe and on the African continent than in America and Asia, for instance. UNESCO's map features only two events in Russia. And there doesn't seem to be any specific event in Luxembourg - at least that we know of.