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25 Year Study Shows Coverage of Women’s Sports on Televised News and Highlights Shows Remains Very Low

The last 40 years have seen a dramatic movement of girls and women into sports, but, according to a new study, this social change is not reflected televised sports news and highlights shows.

“It’s Dude Time!”: A quarter century of excluding women’s sports in televised news and highlight shows, is a five-year update to a 25-year longitudinal study, conducted by Cheryl Cooky (Purdue University), Michael Messner, and Michela Musto (University of Southern California). The research, partially funded by a WSF research grant, indicates that the quantity of coverage of women’s sports in televised sports news and highlights shows remains dismally low. L.A.-based network affiliate sports news programs devoted only 3.2% of broadcast time to women’s sports.

Other key findings of the report include:

• None of the news and highlights stories in our sample included a lead story on women’s sports. Meanwhile, even more so than in past iterations of this study, the majority—nearly 75%—of all coverage is given to the “big three” of men’s pro and college football, basketball, and baseball. Even when out of season these three men’s sports receive lavish coverage.

• On the rare occasions when women’s sports stories appeared, over 80% of them were on women’s basketball. This finding contrasts with past studies, when women’s tennis received more coverage.

• The 2015 report reveals some changes over time, including a decline in the once-common tendency to present women as sexualized objects of humor. But this positive change is eclipsed by the continued dearth of coverage of women’s sports, and by the stark contrast between commentators’ exciting, amplified delivery of stories about men’s sports, with their often uninteresting, matter-of-fact delivery of women’s sports stories.

• The quantitative and qualitative findings indicate sports news and highlights shows function as mediated man caves where it’s almost always “dude time.”

The SHARP Center (a partnership from 2010-2013 between the Women’s Sports Foundation and the University of Michigan’s School of Kinesiology and Institute for Research on Women & Gender) provided funding for the report.

To download a free PDF copy of the study, please go to: http://com.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/06/05/2167479515588761.abstract.