|(this image has been authorised by Wendy Austin
for free use and by Wendy Austin’s management
and uploaded by Austenlennon~
Austenlennon 17:15, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
austenlennon with full permissions.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wendy_austin.jpg)
Some of you will have seen a link on the DBM Facebook page to an item which was broadcast last week on Radio Ulster concerning breastfeeding. The programme is presented by Wendy Austin.
A DBM member brought it to my attention and I have made a complaint to the BBC via their website. The complaint that I sent is copied below.
During the course of the programme the tone was very negative in regards to breastfeeding, and the language used by the presenter was offensive, seeming to label breastfeeding advocates ‘breastfeeding gestapo’ on more than one occasion. Northern Ireland has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the United Kingdom, and despite valiant efforts in some quarters, only a tiny minority of mothers breastfeed. With local press coverage like this, it’s not hard to see why.
If anyone else wishes to make a similar complaint you can do so (fairly quickly!) here, or if you’d like to hear the broadcast (it’s only available online until Friday so you’ve got to be quick!) the link is here. You need to scroll to about 42 minutes in & the piece lasts about ten minutes in total.
I’m writing to express my concern about an item broadcast last Friday as part of your ‘Talkback’ programme with Wendy Austin.
I feel that the section regarding breastfeeding failed to present a balanced range of opinions and not only represented breastfeeding unfairly, but also cause offenced to breastfeeding advocates in the community by repeated use of the words ‘breastfeeding gestapo’ and ‘mafia’. The programme link is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00twxhw/Talkback_01_10_2010/ and the section to which I refer starts at about 42 minutes in.
Several people were interviewed during the course of the item. None of them had (apparently) any breastfeeding training or represented the breastfeeding community. I also feel that it failed to acknowledge or discuss any of the efforts being made to SUPPORT mothers in our communities – much of which is done on a voluntary basis.
During the course of the discussion it became clear to me that the presenter had an agenda which was fairly ‘anti’ breastfeeding and despite the fact that several of the commentators called breastfeeding ‘best’ they then went to to simply discuss negatives. Many mothers do face difficulties, but most of these can be overcome swiftly with access to good support and many mothers (myself included) continue to enjoy a happy nursing relationship, a good social life and work too! I am sure it would have been possible to approach breastfeeding mothers for an alternative viewpoint if you had wanted to. For the presented to invite ‘members of the breastfeeding gestapo’ to ring in a put their points of view was simply offensive – who was going to call in when that was the agenda?
There was much discussion about the ‘inconvenience’ of breastfeeding, and none about the dangers related to formula feeding and the inconvenience that can bring. There was no discussion about mother’s rights in the workplace with regards to lactation breaks and expressing which many mothers would have found very helpful I’m sure.
I also feel that new mothers who might be considering breastfeeding (which is in fact not the ‘best’ but simply the ‘normal’ way to feed a human baby!) might have been put-off by the very negative attitude of the guests and the presenter. This has health implications for both them and their babies.
In regard to the programmes obligations under the broadcasting code, I feel that there were a few areas where issue can be taken.
Firstly, section 2:
2.3 In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context (see meaning of “context” below). Such material may include, but is not limited to, offensive language, violence, sex, sexual violence, humiliation, distress, violation of human dignity, discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion, beliefs and sexual orientation). Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising offence.
I feel that the use of the word ‘breastfeeding gestapo’ on at least two occasions constitutes offensive language, and that appropriate information to balance the discussion was not presented. This could have been in the form of a proper contribution from a breastfeeding mother with a positive story of her breastfeeding experience (not simply the short voxpops at the start!) and by having a healthcare professional give correct information in relation to the subject being discussed. No-one was there to challenge the use of the offensive terms, and asking members of the ‘breastfeeding gestapo’ to phone in does not, in my view, enhance fairness.
In addition, I believe that section 5 of the code was also not adhered to:
5.9 Presenters and reporters (with the exception of news presenters and reporters in news programmes), presenters of “personal view” or “authored” programmes or items, and chairs of discussion programmes may express their own views on matters of political or industrial controversy or matters relating to current public policy. However, alternative viewpoints must be adequately represented either in the programme, or in a series of programmes taken as a whole. Additionally, presenters must not use the advantage of regular appearances to promote their views in a way that compromises the requirement for due impartiality. Presenter phone-ins must encourage and must not exclude alternative views.
I do not feel the programme represented a range of views. I feel a very one-sided agenda was persued. Wendy Austin’s use of demeaning language did not invite alternative views.
5.10 A personal view or authored programme or item must be clearly signalled to the audience at the outset. This is a minimum requirement and may not be sufficient in all circumstances. (Personality phone-in hosts on radio are exempted from this provision unless their personal view status is unclear.)
Wendy Austin did not state clearly her opinion on the subject although it could be argued that it became apparrent as the programme progressed both through her ‘leading’ the guests and her choice of words. She did not appear, to me, to be impartial.
If BBCNI wish to redress the balance I suggest there are a number of places they could start.
First of all, you might wish to do another piece, this time showing the alternative viewpoint.
I think in the interests of fairness you might involve other representatives from the community onboard to give their experiences. You will find that not everyone has a negative breastfeeding experience to relate.
I look forward to hearing from you.
‘Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths’ Project