Monday, July 02, 2007

TV network aiming for equality

One of the major complaints by women's sports advocates is the lack of media attention women's sports get. It is a source of major frustration when media owners/administrators charge that people are not interested in women's sports and they don't cover them and we counter that how can they be interested when they are not covered.

The newly formed, to be launched in August, Big Ten Network is saying it is committed to providing equal coverge to men's and women's sports. Jim Delany, Big Ten commissioner said the plan is to achieve equal coverage in three years. If it's a brand new network why don't they just start it up with equal programming? Why ease into it?

As positive as this committment is, there have been some controversies around the network. First, the network wants cable providers in Big Ten states to add the network to their basic cable packages. The providers are not having it calling the network a "niche" channel that will show second and third rate competitions.

Second, this network further enmeshes educational institutions in the corporatization of sport. The line was a little blurry but there when ESPN and major networks were covering college sports but when a conference gets into the act all pretense is lost. And Congress has already questioned whether big time sports are perhaps putting in jeopardy colleges' and universities' tax-exempt status. NCAA president Myles Brand said that even though intercollegiate sports are entertaining, schools are not in the business of entertainment. I hope the Big Ten Network has some very good spin doctors on staff to try to reconcile this one.

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