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Study finds that TV networks are covering women’s sports less frequently

According to a study released on Tuesday by the University of Southern California (USC), many TV networks are not increasing their coverage of women’s sports. The study, which was published on Tuesday in the journal Gender and Society, found that more serious coverage of women’s sports on the part of mainstream broadcast networks is still being pushed to the sidelines.

Los Angeles-based network affiliates devoted just over three percent of airtime to women’s sports coverage on news broadcasts, according to the study. That number has dropped from five percent in 1989, the first year of the study. The study is still ongoing and has been conducted for decades.

The study also found that ESPN’s SportsCenter has devoted only two percent of airtime to women’s sports. That number has remained flat since the study started tracking the show nearly 20 years ago.

“When compared to the start of the study, women used to be framed in ways that were overtly ” said the study’s lead author Michela Musto. “Now the sexism is subtler. It seems at first that it’s respectful, but if you compare the framing with men’s sports, women are talked about in a much more boring way. There is no joking or complimenting. Those kinds of descriptors are missing from women’s sports.”

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For the study, the research team looked at three two-week segments of televised sports news coverage on three Los Angeles network affiliates and SportsCenter. The coverage was then coded across 20 different categories, such as gender, type of sport, and segment length.

At a time when female participation in sports is growing, the study found that broadcast networks are devoting more coverage to men’s sports even during their offseason compared to women’s sports that are in season.

The research team has updated its findings roughly every five years and plans to continue research and provide an update in 2018.

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