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My dear friend Jennie had pointed me in the direction of Pink Stinks’ blogpost about the lack of women on the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year show last month. Being a helpful male ‘feminist’ I added in the comments some of the notable female athletes who somehow failed to make the remembrance slot in the show. Of course I went further than this and wrote to the BBC on the 19 December:

Where were the women?

Apart from Jessica Ennis and Amy Williams making up 20% of the shortlist for SPoTY, and the occasional female presenter of the awards, plus of course Sue Barker there was a distinct lack of female sport’s representation on this year’s show.

Apart from a 40 second slot entitled Girl Power there was very little about the successes of female athletes in a wide range of sports apart from the two aforementioned. There was also a lack of any women in the list of sport greats to be remembered.

What of:

  • Audrey Collins OBE died 14 February English Cricketer and Administrator. She appeared in one test before WWII but was Secretary and then Chairman of the Women’s Cricket Association from 1984-94. She was one of the first ten women members of the Mayrlebone Cricket Club when it lifted its male only policy in 1999. The day after her death the English team on tour in India wore black arm bands and both teams observed a minutes silence in her honour. 
  • Janet Simpson died 14 March who won a bronze medal at the 1964 Olympics with Mary Rand, Daphne Arden and Dorothy Hyman in the 4 x 100m. She also won a European gold in 1969 in the 4 x 400m setting a world record of 3.30.8 with Rosemary Stirling, Pat Lowe and Lillian Board. 
  • Or Audrey Williamson (29 April) athlete and silver medalist in the last London Olympics in 1948 over 200m. 

Their exclusion and lack of women’s sport representation is general is a shame to the BBC.

I got a reply on the 3 January.

Dear Mr Glenn

Thanks for contacting us regarding BBC One’s ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ broadcast on 19 December.

I understand you feel that there was a lack of female representation on the programme, and that sportswomen weren’t sufficiently acknowledged.

In programmes such as this we strive to commend as many different sportspeople as possible; male and female, however due to time constraints it’s not always possible to accommodate for everyone’s tastes.

I can assure you we value female sport as much as male sporting events, however, as I’m sure you can appreciate; a difficult decision has to be made by the BBC on the amount of time available to mention or acknowledge athletes. The choices we make will not be appreciated by all sections of our audience.

Nevertheless, I’d like to assure you that I’ve registered your concerns on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, programme makers, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

Shona McCullough
BBC Complaints

Do I think that the BBC made a difficult decision to exclude so much female sport from the SPoTY awards? No they took the easy decision and went for what was ‘commercially’ viable. The same as they do when sport is shown on their channel along with anything else.

Yes at Wimbledon we do get women shown playing, as with athletics but some of of female sports people perform at the highest level, are world champions, yet are not given the same coverage as men. Sometimes the women are competing at a higher level than the men, yet the reflection of SPoTY is that is a area of misogynistic thinking. Even the 40 second clip title I’d mentioned showed that, pity they got a woman to signature the response.

It’s not good enough BBC, adding me to the log is not good enough*. The sportswomen I know personal, or watch compete need better representation than this. The BBC is as much their BBC as it is my BBC. Better shape up, SPoTY needs women, and my heart is set on you, to do better next year you. You’re the BBC, won’t you listen to me…..shakes out of a Grease singalong.

* I have too many contacts inside the BBC, past and present, that say this is just something that gets skimmed.

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