Feb 12, 2018

Private Members’ Business – United Nations World Radio Day

Federation Chamber 

That this House:

(1) observes:

(a) United Nations World Radio Day (WRD) on 13 February 2018;

(b) this year’s WRD theme of ‘Radio and Sports’ which calls on us to:

   (i) celebrate the role of radio in promoting Australian sports and the inspiring stories of our high achieving sportspeople and teams;

   (ii) support and promote the grassroots sports that anchor us within our communities;

   (iii) be inspired by the stories that challenge gender stereotypes; and

      (iv) equally cover both men’s and women’s sports events;

(2) recognises the:

(a) unique ability of sport to unite and inspire Australians of all backgrounds, and the iconic nature of many Australian sporting events;

(b) power of radio to unite, inform and entertain Australians throughout the nation and across commercial, public and community broadcasting;

(c) particular importance of publicly funded radio in regional and remote Australia, especially during natural disasters;

(d) critical importance of publicly funded radio for our culturally and linguistically diverse communities through the SBS; and

      (e) role of community broadcasters in nurturing new Australian talent including sports broadcasters, journalists and producers;

(3) acknowledges:

(a) the significant disparity between the coverage of men’s and women’s sports in Australia in radio broadcasting, as well as television, print and online; and

      (b) the need to address this disparity to encourage greater participation in women’s sports and to recognise the achievements of our women athletes; and

(4) calls for:

(a) commercial, public and community radio broadcasters to cover more women’s sports and to ensure there is a diversity of voices in sports commentary; and

(b) greater recognition of the extraordinary achievements of our women’s sports teams in the media, including by ensuring equal public funding.

Tomorrow, 13 February, marks the United Nations World Radio Day. This year’s theme is radio and sports. It’s particularly relevant to Australia this year, with its strong focus on more equal coverage of women’s sports as well as the promotion of women’s voices in sport. In Australia over the last few years we’ve seen the increasing professionalisation of women’s sport, including in the AFLW and women’s cricket. And I’m excited about the launch of the new NRL Women’s Premiership this year, following the success of the Jillaroos in the Ruby League World Cup.

But one of the challenges ahead is to ensure that as women’s sport grows they are afforded meaningful air time. The last time the data was analysed, just seven per cent of all sports coverage in Australian media was of women’s sport. That does not reflect the make-up of our society or sports participation, nor our aspirations as a modern, egalitarian nation. These imbalances have real consequences. They deny women and girls exposure to sport and the encouragement which comes from them seeing their role models work hard for their success.

Fortunately, this is beginning to change. Over the summer you could watch our women’s cricket team play in the Ashes or listen on ABC Grandstand. You can also watch the entire season of the AFLW on free-to-air and pay channels. Just yesterday, I watched a remarkable result with Ash Barty and Casey Dellacqua winning the final match to secure the tie in the Federation Cup right here in Canberra, shown live on free-to-air TV.

As well as covering the matches, there is also a role for all our broadcasters—commercial, public and community—in helping to ensure that women’s voices are not just tolerated but celebrated in sports journalism. In the words of Melbourne broadcaster, Angela Pippos, who has written a book on the subject, the sports media in Australia is still largely, to quote her, ‘Pale, male and stale’, a sad indictment!

One way to change that is to ensure there is a very strong talent pipeline, so this motion also recognises the important role of publicly funded radio, including the ABC, SBS and community radio in supporting up-and-coming talent. It’s only been in the last few decades that women were welcomed into sports media. Debbie Spillane was the first full-time female broadcaster to be hired by ABC Sport, and that was just in 1984. She told Mamamia last year that there’s a long way to go, saying:

Until women are trusted to be the person who describes the action, play by play, ball by ball, then women in sports media will always be second class citizens.

I hope that this motion will receive bipartisan support and shine a light on the work of many of our fantastic female sports journalists, presenters, broadcasters and commentators. I also hope that it will help to inspire the next generation to get involved in radio, and consider sports as a viable specialty—whatever their gender.

On this World Radio Day we can also acknowledge that radio can connect, inform, entertain and strengthen our communities in other significant ways. The thing about modern life is that mobility is increasingly important. Unlike a television screen, radio can travel with you. While you’re doing other tasks, while you’re travelling in the car, while you’re being involved around the house, the radio can connect you to people, and it can engage community feedback.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was interviewed in Melbourne on the community radio station 3KND, which stands for 3 Kool n Deadly. It’s Melbourne’s first Indigenous owned and managed radio station. As well as discussing politics and current affairs, I also chatted with Charles Pakana about sports and the fantastic connections Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have with sport. There are many fantastic elements of radio and sports. We just need to make sure that they reflect the interests, talents and real achievements of our whole population, not just a few. I hope people enjoy World Radio Day tomorrow and that it helps us to focus on the future ahead.