A quarter of 11 year olds having sex implies the BBC! Eh?
Radio One, is the BBC’s pop music station, mainly
listened to by teenagers. On
27 Feb 2003 its “Newsround” bulletin ran the following headline:
“More than a quarter of 11 year olds say they know of a classmate of the same age who is having sex.”
The story was attributed to Marie Stopes International, a family planning charity campaigning for more government spending on contraception in schools.
The BBC website ran the story under the headline:
“Children 'having sex at 11'.
More than a quarter of 11-year-olds in the UK know someone their age who
is having sex, according to a new survey.”
Why is the state broadcaster recycling a misleading
statistic being peddled by a pressure group?
The figure is based on self-reported data, with all the
unreliability that implies. Even
if correct, it tells us nothing about the true rate of sexual activity among
11-year-olds. The children could all be acquainted with the same
sexually active 11-year-old. The
sexual activity is undefined. At
age 11 much of it presumably consists of pre-pubertal children inspecting each
other’s genitals, an activity that most people would regard as a normal part
of growing up. Finally, the
statistic is produced by an organisation in whose interest it is to make us all
panic about teenage sexual activity.
They know that most listeners will mishear the headline, as I did the first
time, as 25 percent of 11-year-olds having sex.
The charity’s motives are clear, albeit unattractive.
It intends to use the findings to win support for a new campaign to
supply children logging onto its website with free condoms.
Such cynical manipulation of the data might get them some extra funds,
but it will also mislead teenagers about the sexual activity of their of their
peers, and encourage the very thing it claims to want to prevent, unwanted
But what are the BBC’s motives? It did not need to lead with that statistic.
The charity’s press release does not contain the 25 percent statement.
Presumably the BBC had to search through the whole survey, which I
don’t have to hand, to find it. Possibly
they even made it up. The Guardian
did not use it.
It is bad enough being taxed to fund a pop music station, but paying to encourage teenage sexual activity so the BBC can get a cheap headline is worse. Join the campaign abolish the licence fee today (click here).
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