MARS - Media Against Racism in Sport

In Europe, only a quarter of news’ subjects are women, even when they account for over half of the European population (GMMP, 2010)! While immigrants represent around 10% of the EU population (Eurostat, 2011) migrants and ethnic minorities represent less than 5% of the main actors in the news in Europe (Ter Wal, 2004). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people represent roughly 6% of the population of the United Kingdom but account for less than 1% of the population seen on TV. 20% of the British population is disabled but less than 1% is represented in British TV (CDN 2009-10 Progress Report).

Through the sources they use, the subjects they select and the treatment they choose, the media influence the agenda (what to think about) and public perception (how to think) of contemporary debates. This is why the Council of Europe considers truly inclusive information - where everyone can participate as witnesses, players, producers etc. - to be crucial for social cohesion and democratic participation. But today, too many people are still excluded from public debates!

The MARS - Media Against Racism in Sport – EU / CoE joint programme chooses to focus, though not exclusively, on sport because it is considered as an important area for building social cohesion and it is also a major sector of investment in the media industry. However, sport media coverage does not reflect social and cultural diversity and does not ensure equality for all. Only 5% of press articles cover cultural and social aspects of sport; 40% of all sport articles refer to only one source and 20 % refer to no sources at all; female athletes have four times more chances to be covered by a female rather than a male journalist but less than 5% of sport news and stories are covered by female journalists (Play the Game, 2005)!

Building upon standards set by various Council of Europe bodies on media pluralism, expression of diversity and non discrimination, and the outcome of the 2008-10 CoE’s antidiscrimination Campaign, the MARS – Media Against Racism in Sport – EU / CoE joint programme aims at considering non discrimination and expression of diversity as an ongoing angle of media coverage. Through this approach applied to sport coverage, MARS would like to encourage innovative modes of media production that could be reproduced in all media sectors and used by any form of media coverage.

In achieving this outcome, the MARS programme offers media professionals (journalism students and trainers, journalists, media managers, etc.) the opportunity to participate to various activities, in particular European Media Encounters to explore the possibilities of developing ways of producing truly inclusive media contents.