Sunday, 6 February 2011

How Sky survived sexism clash

Despite furore over axed presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys comments about female referee Sian Massey Sky Sports have escaped with their reputation largely unscathed.

A reputation survey conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with PR Week has reported that 64% of respondents said their opinion of the channel had not changed. A substantial 78% said that they did not believe Sky Sports as a channel was sexist. So what actions did Sky take to emerge with their reputation in tact?

By acting quickly they were able to employ a string of tactics which kept the sexism debated firmly targeted on Gray and Keys. Statements from Sky Sports ‘higher ups’ condemned the comments as “inexcusable” and “outdated”. Disciplinary action was swift, as was another statement saying

“Those views are inexcusable, entirely inconsistent with our ethos as a business and employer, and will rightly offend many of our customers, our people, and the wider public. They are inexcusable from anyone at Sky, regardless of their role or seniority. We have dealt with this matter by taking immediate disciplinary action.”

Over the following days Sky discovered video evidence of previous sexist behaviour from Andy Gray and promptly released it to the public. Subsequently, Gray was sacked and Keys resigned.

Sky reacted quickly to this particular crisis and successfully distanced themselves from the debate with a string of powerful statements. The later release of video evidence portrayed their willingness to co-operate and prove they were on the side of the public. It was almost as if they were helping to fight for ‘justice’.  The sacking of Gray and Keys was their final escape act. But was it best practice to go that far?

Gray and Keys had been the face of Sky Sports for over 20 years and had so far boasted a first-rate relationship with their viewers. Of the 3000 respondents in OnePoll’s survey only 26% believed they should have been sacked, with 71% agreeing that football is ‘institutionally sexist’ and should be accepted that way.

Do you believe Sky dealt effectively with the issue? Will the sacking of Gray and Keys come back to haunt them?


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Tom Westgate
I am 21 and currently in my second year of a Public Relations and Communications degree at Southampton Solent University and it is awesome. I love hanging out with my friends and I enjoy playing football and rugby and I go surfing with my friends every year! I know when I'm older I definitely want to work in a big city, preferably somewhere hot and on the coast! But before I think about getting a job I want to go travelling. I just want to make the most of my life and see the world! In's allll goood!
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