Emergency contraception and the media: an analysis of English national and regional newspaper coverage from September 2000 to September 2003

Emergency contraception and the media: an analysis of English national and

regional newspaper coverage from September 2000 to September 2003

P. Kingori (1), K. Wellings (2), J. Stephenson (1), R. Kane (2), R. French

(1) + TPSE team

Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research, Dept. of Primary Care &

Population Sciences, Royal Free & University College Medical School, The

Mortimer Market Centre, off Capper Street, London, UK (1); Centre for Sexual

& Reproductive Health Research, London School of Hygiene & Tropical

Medicine, Keppel Street, London, UK (2)

Background: In 1999, the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy was launched with

the aims of halving under–18 conception rates and reducing social exclusion

among teenage parents in England by 2010. The prevention of teenage pregnancy

forms one of four major components of the Strategy. Improving contraceptive

provision and services are key elements in this component, of which increasing

and enhancing early access to Emergency Contraception (EC) forms an important

part. The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy Evaluation (TPSE) has been commissioned to

inform the Strategy. The role of national and regional newspapers in influencing

the social environment in which the Strategy is implemented forms an important

part of the TPSE.

Objectives: To present a systematic examination of English newspaper

articles related to EC and teenage pregnancy, from September 2000 to September


Design & Methods: A commercial press cuttings agency was used to

monitor all national and regional newspapers for the keywords ‘teenage

pregnancy’ and ‘Teenage Pregnancy Unit’ (TPU). The TPSE team coded the

articles by: newspaper; month; story; story headline; reporter; tone of the

article; spokesperson quoted/ referred to in the article, and region. Five

researchers were blinded to the newspaper’s name and the identity of

spokespersons, and asked to describe the tone of articles as ‘positive’, ‘neutral’

or ‘negative’.

Results: 1249 articles were collected (464 from national newspapers;

785 from regional newspapers). Regional newspapers tended to have a larger

proportion of positive articles than the national newspapers (56% vs. 32%). 186

stories (15%) were related to EC, 64% (n=129) were about the availability of EC

‘over-the-counter’ and 8% (n=15) were about the provision of EC in schools.

The majority of these were negative or neutral in tone, 37% (n=69) in each case,

while 26% (n=48) were positive in tone. Over the three years the proportions of

negative stories were: Year 1=49%; Year 2=26% and Year 3=40%. The inter-rater

reliability check of the coding of the tone of the articles produced an average

weighted Kappa of 0.62 (range from 0.4–0.8). The most frequent spokespersons,

or person quoted/referred to in the articles, were those categorised as ‘Family

Values’ campaigners (n=56, 30%) e.g. SPUC. ‘Commercial organisations’

(n=37,19.9%) e.g. Schering, and ‘Sexual Health Groups’ (n=34,18.3%) e.g.

Brook, were also major contributors to discussion of EC in the articles. Over

the three years ‘Family Values’ campaigners and the Daily Mail newspaper

were significantly associated with negative articles (p= <0.0001 and 0.007, respectively).

Conclusions: Newspaper reports of EC and teenage pregnancy have been

predominantly negative over the three years. Our analysis highlights important

distinctions between newspaper type, spokesperson and regional/national

newspapers. These findings can inform media advocacy strategies related to EC.

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