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| 6 minutes read

Representation of women's sport in the French media: The gold medal for invisibility

From 20 July to 20 August 2023, the ninth Women's World Cup will take place in Australia and New Zealand.

The Women's World Cup is a global sporting event showcasing the talent and commitment of the best national women's football teams. The first edition took place in China in 1991, with just 12 teams. This year will bring together a record number of 32 teams, demonstrating the growing importance of this event.

France, as host of the last edition in 2019, played a central role in promoting this event. The country has demonstrated its support for women's football by providing high-quality facilities, mobilizing considerable logistical resources and creating a festive and welcoming atmosphere for the participating teams and fans from all over the world.

On the pitch, the national team put in a remarkable performance. The French players showed their talent and determination, reaching the quarter-finals of the competition after defeating Brazil. Their performance was hailed by the fans and helped to stimulate interest in women's football in the country.

However, one month before the beginning of the competition, no French broadcaster had yet acquired the broadcasting rights for the 2023 edition of the Women's World Cup, due to a disagreement with FIFA over the financial conditions for acquiring these rights. The situation was resolved on 14 June with the purchase of the rights by M6 and France Télévision.

In addition to this issue, there has been no large-scale communication - at least none comparable to the communication surrounding the men's World Cup in 2022.

This raises the more general question of the representation of "women's sport" in the French media.

“Women's sport” is largely under-represented in the French media, as the CSA and then Arcom have found. Initiatives have been taken to remedy this situation, but progress remains slow.

1. The findings of the study conducted under the aegis of Arcom[1] are indisputable: “women's sport” is vastly under-represented in the media.

 Arcom has studied in detail the volume of "women's sport" compared to "men's sport" over the 2018-2021 period[2] .

The findings are disappointing.

Over the 2018-2021 period, "men's sport" accounted for an average of 71.5% of television broadcasts, compared with 4.5% for "women's sport"[3]:

These figures are even more telling when we look at the number of hours worked[4] :

That said, a positive trend can be seen in terms of progression: the volume of hours represented by "women's sport" increased by 50% between 2018 and 2021, compared with "only" 22% for "men's sport". In other words, "women's sport" has grown much faster than "men's sport".

However, it is premature to draw any conclusions from these figures. Firstly, because these figures cannot be compared with those from previous reports, as Arcom has changed the methodology in the meantime (in particular by adding the 'mixed' category). Secondly, because each of the last four years has its own specific features (Olympic Games in 2018 and 2021, Women's Football World Cup in 2019 and Covid in 2020-2021).

2. The reasons given for the under-representation of "women's sport" in the media 

There are many reasons for this lack of representation:

  • Prejudices and gender stereotypes: for many, “men's sport” is more competitive, spectacular and worthy of interest. Conversely, “women's sport” is less highly regarded and considered less prestigious.
  • Perceived profitability: similarly, some broadcasters and advertisers see “women's sport” as less profitable because it is less attractive to the public.
  • Media structures: television channels are very often run by men, who consciously or unconsciously favour “men's sport”.

All these factors create a vicious circle in which the lack of media coverage has an impact on the funding, career opportunities and popularity of "women's sport". Conversely, the lack of funding, professionalization and popularity of "women's sport" in turn leads to a lack of media visibility.

To break this spiral, a number of initiatives have been launched to encourage the representation of women's sport in the media and, more generally, to promote “women's sport”.

3. Initiatives implemented to improve the representation of women's sport in the media

Every year since 2014, the CSA (now Arcom) has offered a communication campaign to promote television and radio channels to promote “women's sport” by encouraging them to organize debates and broadcast sports coverage. The last edition took place from 30 January to Sunday 5 February 2023. The theme chosen for the 2023 edition is "Sport as a remedy", to illustrate how the practice of sport can help to rebuild, heal or emancipate sportswomen, with Cléopâtre Darleux, professional handball player, as patron.

Other initiatives have been put in place by the Ministry of Sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games and a range of stakeholders, in particular:

  • A task force made up of broadcasters and rights holders tasked with working on proposals to increase the volume and quality of broadcasting of women's sport.
  • Proposal to recast the decree relating to the list of major events (Decree no. 2004-1392 of 22 December 2004 taken for the application of article 20-2 of law no. 86-1067 of 30 September 1986 relating to freedom of communication), in order to encourage the free-to-air broadcasting of "women's sport".

This decree obliges pay-TV channels to share their exclusive rights with free-to-air channels in the case of "events of major importance". The majority of these events are now strictly men's events, with the exception of basketball and handball.

  • Creation of a women's football league within the French Football Federation.
  • Consultation with brands and companies to identify economic levers to increase sponsors' commitment to “women's sport”.
  • Relaunch of the Conférence Permanente du Sport Féminine (created in 2017). This is a consultative body reporting to the Minister for Sport, which brings together all those involved in developing and promoting “women's sport” (article L. 142-1 of the French Sports Code).

In addition to these initiatives, everyone can play their part in this objective of recognition and media coverage of "women's sport" by watching the various events, attending them and communicating about them.

What about tomorrow?

Although the representation of "women's sport" in the media is increasing, it is still much lower than that of "men's sport".

However, the situation is changing, with certain media making a new commitment. For example, M6 has just announced on its Twitter account that, in addition to the Women's World Cup, it will broadcast the following women's sporting events: 

  • EURO 2025 and Women's World Cup 2027 qualifiers;
  • Nations League 2023 and 2025;
  • French team friendlies until 2027.

Initiatives and commitments to the representation of "women's sport" in the media must continue. They help to break down stereotypes, inspire young women and girls and restore equity in sport, particularly professional sport.

Finally, in addition to the issue of how “women's sport” is portrayed in the media, there are wider issues surrounding "women's sport" that need to be addressed and resolved. 

The treatment of "women's sport" in the media still has some way to go. At the moment, the comments focus more on the extra-sporting aspects - particularly the physical appearance of the athletes - than on their performances. And when their performances are discussed, it's often to compare them to those of men.

Similarly, the remuneration and status of sportswomen still need to be radically changed. Today, "women's sport" is not sufficiently professional, even if progress has been made in this direction. On 8 June, FIFA announced that it would pay each participant in the World Cup a salary of at least USD 30,000 (EUR 28,000) for each stage of the tournament.

This is still a long way from the sums allocated to men, but it is undeniable progress.

[1] Arcom is the French regulatory authority for audiovisual and digital communication. It was created in 2022 following the merger of the CSA and Hadopi. "As the guarantor of freedom of communication and expression in the audiovisual and digital spheres, Arcom's remit includes ensuring the democratic and societal responsibilities of the audiovisual media and online platforms, guaranteeing the pluralism of the audiovisual news media and the independence of public broadcasting, ensuring the sector's economic equilibrium and supporting creative work. (https ://

[2] Analysis of the weight of women's sporting events broadcast on television between 2018 and 2021 - January 2023 (this is the fifth edition of this study).

[3] Analysis of the share of women's sporting events broadcast on television between 2018 and 2021 - January 2023, p. 4

[4] Analysis of the share of women's sporting events broadcast on television between 2018 and 2021 - January 2023, p. 5


football, world cup, media, sport, women in sport