Sexism rife with tennis media down under
For a sport which promotes gender-equality internationally and a nation rich in its history, there’s a major problem which lies in between which stems from a very powerful medium. Tennis broadcasting in Australia is undergoing vast changes to programming schedules and has been for about 18 months. Now concerned predominantly with the Men’s game, what will be next? Who is to blame? Will conditional broadcasting of Women’s tennis cease in the near future or will more gender-based boundaries be imposed?
Not all Australian media are executing these negative effects fans. In fact, quite the opposite regarding commercial TV station ‘The Seven Network’ and governing body ‘Tennis Australia’. The Seven Network has the best Tennis commentators and presenters in the country bar none and their tradition has been a healthy one. For a few weeks every year when Summer, Christmas and New Year come around in Australia, Australians are accustomed to seeing tennis matches on television. Thankfully, this hasn’t changed much over the decades. Today The Seven Network broadcasts matches from Perth, The Gold Coast, Adelaide, Sydney and Kooyong leading up to the Australian Open as well as Davis Cup. It’s a great time for tennis fans down under and it’s the only time. The public’s conception of Federation Cup is extremely poor – It’s never been shown in this country.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the year has become an unjustifiable mess. Like many other countries, Australia gets commercial coverage of most Grand Slam Tournaments (excluding Roland Garros). This is where Pay-TV networks come into the picture. They cover all the Grand Slams, Davis Cup and ATP Masters series events.
2 years ago, Pay-TV tennis broadcasting in Australia seemed fine. You could wake up early in the morning to see the Miami final LIVE or various other women’s matches from around the globe shown somewhat sporadically, but at least they were shown. I have since tried writing to ‘Fox Sports’ about this and have not received a reply in any form.
Australian Open 2007 - If a 3 second delay in a so called “LIVE Telecast” is not enough, how about some B grade commentary on Yuri Sharapov’s toilet habbit, detractions from Serena Williams during her victorious moment or some horrendous predictions from people you’ve never heard of before? They claim to have played tennis professionally and may know something about the game but their day jobs are the only answer. One positive viewers can take from this experience is that The Fox Sports Network is comprised of three numbered channels allowing viewers to surf different matches at the same time or choose from three matches to watch throughout the day.
In July 2007 (only a matter of weeks ago) Australia was relegated after Fed Cup loss to Ukraine. Women’s Tennis in Australia all of a sudden had gained exposure in gigantic proportions by this network. The sport went from no coverage to massive scrutiny overnight and it was their lead story for nearly a week accompanying headlines “Women’s tennis in the country hits rock bottom” and “Women’s tennis in Australia at it’s lowest point”. Match highlights went to air for days and some verbal fireworks between opposing players were made very public.
Effectively, what Australians now have to do to watch women’s tennis matches abroad is hope that a Women’s tournament is played in conjunction with an ATP Masters Series event. Even then, many more rounds of the Men’s side will be telecast leaving room only for Women’s semi-finals at best. When fans take a look at the tournament calendar this scenario is like a needle in a haystack, literally. We have twice as many women top 100 players than men yet their sport gets considerebly less than half the Pay TV coverage.
Everyone likes watching Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer battle out a final. It’s one of the great rivalries involving possibly the greatest player of all time, but please do not use or buy this excuse because there are none. One can only hope this downward spiral ends sooner rather than later. 18 months of it has already done enough damage.