The 4th Annual Women in Media conference took place in Kilcooly’s Country House Hotel this weekend in Ballybunion. Women in Sport garnered a spot for the first time at this conference with Fiona Coghlan, Cliona O’Leary, Anne McCarthy, Emily Glen and Sue Ronan giving their views and experiences when it comes to coverage of women’s sport in the media.
Cliona O’Leary from RTE TV sport showed some very interesting figures with surprisingly very high figures of women watching men’s sport compared to those watching women’s sport.
- Camogie v Hurling finals: on average there are four times more women watching the Hurling finals compared to the Camogie finals in 2013-2015
- Six Nations: Women’s games on average attract half the audience of Men’s Championship in 2013-2016
- FAI Cup Finals: female audiences for Men’s finals are on average double that of Women’s finals in 2013-2015
She also highlighted the very successful #supporthersport campaign by Liberty Insurance last year which she believes may have helped the All Ireland Gaelic football final 2015 reach it’s record breaking 32,000 figure.
Fiona Coghlan (Former Irish Rugby Captain) and Anne McCarthy (Sport Ireland) both stressed that the whole media problem is not just down to the media itself, it is also up to the National Governing Bodies to get their message out there and be more proactive in making their sport a product that people want to consume.
Emily Glen (Fair Game Podcast) highlighted the current figures of coverage in the media and commented that no real study has been done here in Ireland but with figures of 7% coverage across the water, a very low figure by any standards, similar levels probably exist in the Irish media. Sue Ronan, Irish WNT Soccer Manager, suggested that often the media line, which is that there is not enough interest in women’s sport is incorrect. She highlighted the viewing and attendance figures for the women’s soccer World Cup which showed huge interest in women’s soccer worldwide with figures of 25+ million watching the final in 2015.
There was much heated discussion between members of the audience with Billie Keane and Una Mullally debating the point that women have to achieve before they get any coverage where as men don’t. “Women have to succeed to get coverage – but no matter how many times they fail, men’s sports get full coverage.” said Mullally. The question was also raised as to whether the public service remit of RTE should outweigh the financial factors when carrying female sports events.
A consensus formed that the issue of fair coverage of Women’s Sports was the complex conundrum of the chicken or the egg, should the media reflect the level of interest or does it have a role in creating the public interest. If and when the sporting organisations produce the content the media will present it. And the overriding conclusion of the discussion was that when there is a successful Women’s national team in whatever sport it happens to be in the media will report on it.
The event was attended by the Tanaiste Joan Burton TD and former Tanaiste Mary Harney, who gave the closing address to the conference, highlighting that the continuing struggle for equality is not a Women v Men issue but one of Women and Men working together.