Women’s Sport coverage at an all-time low for local and national television

Women play sport, but not on TV: A longitudinal study of televised news media

From Communication & Sport

While news coverage of sport fills television screens across America, many women’s sports fans are left without any updates on their favorite female teams. This study finds that this problem has only gotten worse in recent years, with coverage of women’s sports at an all-time low of 1.3 – 1.6%.

“In recent years, sports news and highlights shows have evidenced a retrenchment, expressed through a narrowed focus on a few commercially central men’s sports,” the researchers wrote Examining six weeks of televised news coverage from three of the most popular local news affiliates in Los Angeles as well three weeks of coverage on ESPN’s nationally broadcasted SportsCenter, researchers found that the amount and quality of coverage women’s sports coverage is at its lowest ever.

The researchers also discuss the problem of sexist coverage of women’s sports and provided suggestions for sports organizations and sports fans to help increase respectful coverage of women sports: “Audience members can complain directly to the producers of sports programs—to tell them that they do not appreciate sexist treatment of women in sports news and highlights shows and that they want to see more and better coverage of actual women’s sports.”


One of the long-standing trends in research on gender in sports media is the lack of coverage of women’s sport and the lack of respectful, serious coverage of women’s sport. In this article, we critically interrogate the assumption that the media simply provide fans with what they “want to see” (i.e., men’s sports). Using quantitative and qualitative analysis, we examine 6 weeks of the televised news media coverage on the local news affiliates in Los Angeles (KABC, KNBC, and KCBS) and on a nationally broadcast sports news and highlight show, ESPN’s SportsCenter. Part of an ongoing longitudinal study, the findings demonstrate that the coverage of women’s sport is the lowest ever. We argue that the amount of coverage of women’s sports and the quality of that coverage illustrates the ways in which the news media build audiences for men’s sport while silencing and marginalizing women’s sport. Moreover, the overall lack of coverage of women’s sport, despite the tremendous increased participation of girls and women in sport at the high school, collegiate, and professional level, conveys a message to audiences that sport continues to be by, for, and about men.


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Article details

Cheryl Cooky, Michael A. Messner, and Robin H. Hextrum

Women Play Sport, But Not on TV: A Longitudinal Study of Televised News MediaCommunication & Sport 2167479513476947, first published on April 4, 2013 doi:10.1177/2167479513476947


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