Victoria Cotton currently works at the BBC as the Output Editor where she decides what we will be broadcast. She had worked on Grandstand, Match of the Day and the coverage of Wimbledon, 6 Nations and five summer Olympics. During 2012 to 2016, she was the only female output editor.
Karthi Gnanasegaram presents the sports bulletins on BBC and is the sports correspondent for Radio 4’s Today programme. She has worked as a presenter on Sky News and Al Jazeera and has worked on broadcasts for the Olympics, Premier League, Champions League and Wimbledon.
What was discussed?
The conference was all about giving women inspiration and support in order to work in the media. Although some will argue that the need for such an event should not be or isn’t necessary, the talk with Karthi and Victoria showed exactly why it is needed and where there is still progress to be made.
Victoria recalled when she went to her careers advice and said that she wanted to be a sports journalist to be told that is not a job for a woman. Rather than give up her ambition, she used this as motivation to succeed and prove them wrong. When Victoria started working as a editor writing copy for Match of the Day and Final Score, she yet again faced disbelief;
“It was like being in a cage at a zoo. People would be coming over and looking and pointing that there was a woman doing this.”
Karthi has experienced similar issues regarding the reactions she deals with in her job role. When interviewing sportsmen, she often finds they are wary of her and take longer to warm to her and appreciate her knowledge and understanding than with her male colleagues. She has had one sportsman say to her in surprise:
“You actually know what you’re talking about don’t you?!”
The issues surrounding the idea that women and sport are not easily combined are exacerbated by the limited media coverage women’s sport gets and when there is coverage, the bias that is often displayed. Although the BBC has made efforts to be more inclusive, for example, when coverage of the women’s football World Cup, newspapers still have a long way to go where an article will often be accompanied with a photo which will be included to appeal to the male readership.
There are some positives in the coverage of women’s sports; Channel 4 have bought the rights to the European Football Championships after a bidding war with other broadcasters. This shows that opinion is changing towards female sport being a commercial product although there’s still much progress to be made to reach the same level as the male counterpart.
The other issue highlighted by Victoria in getting women’s sport onto a more equal standing is how it is differentiated. It’s always the “Women’s World Cup” but the male players will compete in the “World Cup”. Victoria urged that we need to think about whether it really is necessary to differentiate.
Stand out advice:
“I still have articles where I circled the editor and emailed to ask if I could come in”
– Karthi recalling how she would contact people to try and gain experience.
“There’s never a similar day”
-Karthi on working as a presenter.
What I took from the session:
I found the whole talk completely fascinating and eye opening. Although it is sad there are prejudices still, like Victoria, I want to overcome this. I particularly felt the advice regarding tell the stories that surround sport very useful, and was echoing the sentiment raised in Shelley Alexander’s talk. Often when the sport starts, there is no room for those stories so for example with the Olympics, the lead up and anticipation is the time to show these stories.
Being urged to go out and report on the things aren’t being reported and if you can’t get an established outlet to take it on, then go and create your own.