An Answer for Male-Female Inequalities in Sport Broadcasting?

As I have discussed on a previous post, women’s sports receive a fraction of media coverage in comparison to men’s sport. In my analysis of BBC Sport only 13% of the news items were on women’s sport – slightly higher from other researchers who commonly find between 5-10% – but significantly lower from what is normally found when analysing Olympic Games’ data (Billings, 2008, Coche, 2015). Different reasons are given for this spike on media exposure during Olympic Games – either from the exposure of sexualised events (ie beach volleyball), superstars competing on those events (ie Simone Biles), or unique background stories (ie Ans Botha). Yet, maybe there is another reason for this more equal coverage: male and female events take place at the same place and time. This can drop opportunity costs as the whole media circus is already in town so there is no either/or decision to be taken. But, can we confirm this speculation with other sport events in addition to the Olympic Games?

Let’s take the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire as an example – specifically the races that took place on the 4th May [last day of Women’s event, and second day of Men’s event]. Both of those races finished at the top of the Cow and Calf in Ilkley – a unique experience for me as I live just at the bottom of the climb – and as part of my interest in cycling I took to Gephi to collect the Twitter network for this day. Below we can see the combination of the two Twitter networks I have collected – one from the Women’s race and the other from the Men’s race.

Visually we can see that this network is less polarised than the one I previously showed here. Nevertheless, it is more separated in the sense that members are less connected between them – forming additional smaller communities.

But what I want to call attention is the size of the different nodes, and how reddish they are (size denoting in-degree prestige and colour weighted in-degree). Both women and men riders feature in similar form and colour – apart from Harry Tanfield who rode that stage wearing the leader’s jersey and his team at the time Canyon-Eisberg.

Talking about women’s pro cycling in the network, we can see to the left Kirsten Wild, Wiggle High 5 Pro Cycling Team, Megan Guarnier (Tour de Yorkshire 2018 overall winner), Boels–Dolmans Pro Cycling Team, Lizzie Deignan, Rochelle Gilmore, Anna Christian, and Dani King.

It is interesting to note that the only other rider who rivals in prestige with the above peloton is the multi-stage winner Mark Cavendish – who has over 1.3 million Twitter followers. Even Greg Van Avermaet who won that stage – and is the current Olympic champion – did not have the same prestige [we cannot even spot him in the visualisation].

That begs a question. What if in all sport events women and men competed in the same place and at similar time? Would this change media framing and agenda setting? Would we see a more equal coverage?

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