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The rise of women in sports TV production: breaking barriers and changing perspectives

Courtney Gahan
2 min read

There is little gender diversity in the sports TV production field — hardly any female commentators across any sport, and very few in positions such as Gudrun Wanek’s. Gudrun has been directing since 2012 after starting as a replay operator in 2004. She is also a mentor of the HBS Broadcast Academy. This article illustrates, how her female view in broadcasting influences the way of how sports and athletes are being shown on TV.

“The role of the TV director is basically to make sure that the viewers of the broadcast get to experience every aspect of the event taking place,” says Gudrun. “I usually work in an OB-Van (Outside Broadcasting Van), where I am in front of a monitor wall, which displays all the sources available — cameras, slow-motion, replay outputs, TV graphics, picture-in-picture frames for video replay situations, and so on. I operate with a vision mixer, on which every button stands for a different source.”

Thinking of differences in men’s and women’s sport, the thought comes to mind of how athletes have often been presented in the media and by sports fans — it seems clear that some sports photographers, journalists, and TV directors focus more on players they deem more attractive than others or on trying to highlight features of the athletes’ bodies. “That is definitely something I pointed out to my camera operators as well,” says Wanek, discussing some different warm-up games teams might play or exercises they might do that would end up highlighting certain parts of their bodies if shown on TV, as well as particular moments during the matches.”

It is not only concerning the athletes where certain shots or focus on athletes because of the way they look can be an issue — that can also happen when it comes to the crowds at sporting events. “If you have crowd shots, or if you ask your camera operator to find people in a crowd, they usually pick the most perfect woman — many of them would pick the most beautiful woman they can find,” says Wanek, adding that FIFA have now included avoiding these kinds of choices in their production guidelines.

Wanek does not believe women are not interested in those roles, but that girls and young women choosing their career path may not be aware this is even an option. After all, so many people are unaware of how sports TV production works in the first place, so how often are girls and young women seeing women in these roles and thinking “I could do that”? 

This article was written by EHF journalist Courtney Gahan at the EHF Women's Euro 2022. Read the complete article here.

The HBS Broadcast Academy offers women and under-represented groups an opportunity to develop their skills in the sports broadcast industry. Learn more

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