Surprise praise for teenage magazines' sex campaigns

Mizz: complaints not upheld

Teenage magazines have been praised for for running campaigns to support Government efforts to increase awareness of sexually transmitted diseases.

Speaking at the annual Teenage Magazine Arbitration Panel (TMAP) forum last week, the head of the Government’s Teenage Pregnancy Unit, Cathy Hamlyn, said the Government campaign had won a 75 per cent recognition rate among 13 to 17-year-olds. "We are extremely pleased with the effectiveness of the campaign – especially since such high recognition rates are normally associated with TV, rather than magazine advertising," she said.

The campaign, which ran exclusively in magazines, aimed to raise awareness in an informative way without being patronising.

Hamlyn also welcomed surveys conducted by the teen press. "Surveys in teen magazines are a great help to the Government in getting a clearer idea of the overall picture of what teenagers think," she said.

The Teenage Pregnancy Unit has taken responsibility for lowering the rate in the UK of misused substances such as alcohol and class A drugs and Hamlyn said she welcomed contributions from magazines towards planning the Government’s strategy.

One panel member, Dr Robert Ingham of Southampton University, urged editors to be less cautious in their approach to sex and relationships, following research that suggested more sex education leads to fewer pregnancies. His comments coincided with adjudications on two complaints about Mizz magazine.

The first complaint related to a feature in an October issue, entitled "Teen Traumas – Your Cringeworthy Questions Answered". The complaints were about two letters in a supplement that were felt to be too sexually explicit for Mizz readers, who are aged 10 to 14 years old, and questioned the need to inform its audience about oral sex and kissing.

The panel considered the complaint according to TMAP guidelines, which state that readers will be "encouraged to seek support from parents, guardians and other responsible adults wherever relevant" and the editorial content of the magazines "will reflect the typical concerns of the magazines’ readership, with advice given to provide readers with relevant and responsible answers to their concerns".

The panel decided that although some readers might find the subject "alarming", Mizz was not in breach of the guidelines.

TMAP chairman Dr Fleur Fisher said: "The editor’s response and subsequent evidence had made clear that this feature was the result of a large volume of correspondence received on a regular basis by the magazine.

"All the correspondence published in the feature was based on genuine letters from the Mizz readership and reflected the typical concerns of the readership." The second complaint, objecting to information on sexuality and sexual behaviour, was not upheld because it was considered too general. TMAP is now considering further research into the range of problems about which teenagers write into magazines.  lA monthly magazine targeting girls aged 14 to 17, has been launched in Ireland by Michael O’Doherty, publisher of VIP and TV Now. KISS has a print run of 25,000 and is a 96-page glossy with a E2.50 cover price. Irish pop star Samantha Mumba was on the cover of the launch issue.

By Ruth Addicott

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