Recently, the Cycling Tour Down Under (TDU) event hosted in Adelaide again raised issues regarding the level of broadcasting attention the women’s cycling races received compared to the men’s cycling races.
Gender equality is often lacking in sporting coverage and cycling is no exception. When it comes to cycling, the level of women’s coverage is currently below par.
In her piece ‘Gaining Traction with Womens Cycling’, Jane Aubrey describes how fans wanting to view the women’s TDU were being asked to ‘ wait for the highlights package’ that was shown prior to the men’s race on the returning broadcaster for the TDU for 2017, SBS.
Additionally the ‘Super Sunday’ event that was broadcasted on SBS Viceland Channel did not include coverage of the women’s event and only included live coverage of the men’s road race. Viewers were given the chance to pick viewer moments from the women’s race taking part on the same day.
Not all cycling fans were happy with this uneven level of coverage and in turn, RIDE Media Publisher Rob Arnold wrote an Open Letter discussing the implications of media coverage from Cycling Australia. He stated in his opinion piece that “there are numerous flaws in the approach of CA and the priorities seem to be skewed in favour of a select few rather than considering the cycling community as a whole.”
In order for women’s cycling to grow, it needs more media exposure. Women’s cycling is competitive and exciting, yet their stories often go untold. There has to be more investment into the sport, but that is hard without any visibility.
Even if you are the most enthusiastic or passionate cycling fan or just enjoy the occasional bike ride, the community wants to see both genders performing on the big stage through our television or laptop screens.
Although free-to-air television will help create more visibility for the international and domestic audience, it is social media that really has the potential to to showcase women’s cycling by covering multiple yearly events.
Coverage must be consistent rather than on a yearly basis. For some of us, we become cycling fans once every four years when the Olympic Games are on, but then that interest vanishes after the event closes.
The good news is, that we are already starting to see a change. SBS Cycling Central announced at the start of the year that some women’s racing events would be live streamed through Facebook.
This change was effective. According to Jarrod Patridge’s opinion piece ‘Comment: early season racing broadcasts”, he states that “at the height of the broadcast of the opening stage of the women’s series, there were 1,400 people watching the stream. Yes, 1400!”
In future, this figure will continue to rise as not only fans will take advantage of the option to watch women’s races but participating teams may also share the feed onto their own social media domains.
The level of live coverage between men and women in cycling must be equal. Live coverage of the races is what keeps the audience interested, not delayed highlights. Investment in women’s cycling will naturally increase as a result through sponsorships and other media organisations.
Although equivalence is not there yet, the idea of expanding exposure to social media platforms will help raise interest in women’s cycling and in turn can create better coverage and exposure.
By Vangeli Kollias, Bicycle NSW Journalism Student Intern