At the outset of this piece I wish to stress that it merely represents my opinion and gut instinct.
You could argue that opening with a statement such as this is nothing but a slimy ‘get out’ device designed to avoid or deflect accusations that what I’m about to express has no basis in reality or quotable fact and I would probably be happy go along with that accusation.
I’m not submitting a thoroughly-researched treatise to some academic journal of record and therefore I don’t have to provide annotations giving details of from which source I obtained my supporting facts and arguments. Nor is this journalism, at least not in the professional sense.
Nor am I employed by the BBC News department and therefore have any contractual or moral obligation to be impartial, fair or indeed put ‘both sides of the argument’.
I’m just shooting from the hip and putting my views out there – please agree with them, take issue with them and/or just dismiss them as puerile as you choose.
Today I want to address aspects of the gap between how the media reports the world ‘as it is’ and how – for propaganda purposes – it gets used by what might for these purposes be termed ‘the forces of both good and evil’ in order to influence and/or change people’s views.
Many of the issues arising can be seen in the world of female sport.
There is undoubtedly an attitude prevalent amongst the political, medical and ‘do gooder’ brigades that a well-developed Western democratic society like ours in the UK should do more to combat public health and fitness, especially amongst women.
We get bombarded almost daily by reports upon new surveys and/or research that testifies to the disadvantages of unhealthy living practices (e.g. eating poor quality and/or junk food; drinking more alcohol and fizzy drinks than is good for us; leading a sedentary lifestyle; smoking and taking drugs; and spending too much time stuck in front of television or computer screens) and – the other side of the coin – the advantages of healthy living (e.g. not over-eating; adopting a Mediterranean diet based around, olive oil, fish and fresh vegetables; taking regular exercise; and avoiding smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs).
When it comes to exercise, official received opinion over past decades has it that women in particular need to take more exercise because of the health benefits.
Much time and effort has been spent trying to establish why historically females haven’t tended to get involved exercising or sport.
We can start with the fact that many girls hate games, maybe partly because they’re not very sporty themselves, maybe partly because of body image issues and/or a reluctance to ‘dress for sport’ in terms of unflattering or revealing sporting clothing that is required to be worn. Young girls have many interests – fashion, pop music, movies, the cult of celebrity, art, academic work and social relationships to name but a few – with which to occupy their time and sport is just not a priority for many of them.
All the above said, there’s been a major thrust to improve female sporting participation in the past thirty years. In many respects it has worked. These days female participation in sports like running has increased exponentially – from marathons right down to the occasional charity fun run, the numbers of women taking part as a proportion of all participants has rocketed.
Then there is the growing politically-correct army of supposed do-gooders which has demanded that elite sportswomen should be given equal billing and equal broadcasting transmission time with men, this as a pro-active initiative designed both to improve the marketability of elite sportswomen and promote them as sporting stars, icons and role models likely to attract more young girls to try their sports. Let’s make no bones about it – this is Grade A positive discrimination apparently justified to the world (if ever it has to be) on the basis that ‘extreme problems demand extreme solutions’.
Where I part company with this programme of proactive intervention lies somewhere in the depths of the conflict I mentioned earlier – i.e. that between ‘reporting the world as it is’ and ‘reporting the world as you would like it to be, in the hope the public will perceive and accept it as reality and then act accordingly …’
The 2012 London Olympics was built around the aspiration that, by piggy-backing upon its success and inspiring the nation’s young people, the UK would be able to build a legacy of a mass improvements not only in sports participation but ultimately in terms of national health.
Here’s a blunt but compelling article by Owen Gibson that recently appeared on the website of The Guardian – THE FAILURE OF THE LONDON 2012 LEGACY
As it happens, I’ve been about 50:50 enthused and exasperated by the BBC’s saturation coverage of the women’s football World Cup.
It’s great to have been given a broadcast window upon an event that celebrates a different version of the game, but at times I’ve found the ‘cod’ serious technical analysis of the games (during previews, live commentaries and post-match debriefs), semi-ridiculous to the point of laughable when considered against the actual quality of the play which on occasions has barely matched the level of a male Sunday morning pub football or schoolboy game.
Since England’s ‘success’ at the tournament a bucketful of journalistic comment has been written, and a thousand media interviews given, all stressing that the opportunity it has provided to create a legacy in terms of improving football’s female participation and spectator numbers must now not be missed.
Both current and former players have talked long and hard of the women’s Super League – with its Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City club teams – as if it is almost on a part with their male equivalent, giving the impression that the broadcasters are lagging behind the times by not giving it airtime to rank alongside the English Premiership.
However, at one point I heard one of them talking on Radio Five Live this week, admitting average attendances at women’s Super League games are somewhere between the 400 and 700 mark.
Well, hopefully the success of the England women’s team in securing third place in the World Cup may have a bracing effect upon both spectator numbers and female participation in football. I hope it will. But – in terms of ‘reporting reality’ – it seems to me that the prospect of broadcasting tens of hours of women’s Super League games at weekends and other times would seem absurd.
In my submission, the occasions upon which a sporting event that attracts less than 1,000 spectator merits a television channel going to the trouble of setting up or hiring the considerable logistics and costs of an outside broadcast in order to cover it are few and far between.
The bottom line is that, when it comes to elite sport (professional or amateur), commercial reality is all. The day when female athletes might earn as much as their male counterparts will come only when their sport is a competitive and entertaining as the men’s, including to both sexes.
(And please don’t get me started on the distortions that the politically-correct lobby has inflicted upon the sport of tennis …)