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Issues - sex - no limit for youth

Girls' teen glossies avoid age limits

Minister rejects protests by teachers over sexual content

Rebecca Smithers, education correspondent
Saturday May 29, 2004
The Guardian

Girls' glossy teen magazines will not have to carry age-stamped restrictions on their front covers despite a high-profile campaign led by teachers, the minister for media and heritage, Lord McIntosh, has confirmed.
The move to have the mass-circulation publications regulated was proposed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. At its annual conference in April it backed a motion calling for tougher regulation and urging parents to take a closer interest in what their young daughters were reading in their leisure time.
But the Periodical Publishers' Association (PPA) - which represents the publishers of magazines such as Bliss, Sugar and Cosmo Girl - said the content was responsibly scrutinised by the industry.
Editorial policy is vetted through the Teenage Magazine Arbitration Panel (TMAP), which deals with complaints and requires magazines to adhere to a strict code of conduct. Lord McIntosh wrote to the association this week to tell it of the government's decision.
Ralph Surman, deputy head of Cantrell primary school in Nottingham and an ATL executive member, told the conference he believed that many magazines "glamorised promiscuity" with lurid sexual content, while their editorial policy was harmful.
Mr Surman, a father of three, criticised editors and publishers for targeting girls as young as 10 while publishing content that was unsuitable for children under 14. Age restrictions should be made clear on the covers, he said.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "The government firmly believes that a press free from state intervention is fundamental to democracy. We would not therefore seek to interfere in any way in what a newspaper or magazine chooses to publish or seek to restrict readership.
"When it comes to material aimed at children, the government believes that is primarily something on which parents must take a view for their own children. In doing this, they are ably assisted by the work of the Teenage Magazine Arbitration Panel."
Clare Hoban, head of public and legal affairs at the PPA and a member of the TMAP, said: "PPA is delighted that the government formally recognises not only the importance of a free and democratic press but the effective self-regulatory mechanisms already in place to ensure high standards in content.
"The Teenage Magazine Arbitration Panel is a vital cog in this self-regulatory wheel. It recognises that magazines play a crucial role in educating and empowering young women to enable them to make responsible choices about their sexual lives.
"Together with the teen magazine industry it will continue to ensure that young readers receive accurate, honest and appropriate information in response to the hundreds of requests for help and advice that they receive each week from readers negotiating their way through the emotional minefield of adolescence and sexual development."
But Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, commented: "We are disappointed that the [government] has decided not to act at this time but we will continue to press our views. We are confident that we can work with the magazine publishers to address this issue."

SOURCE: http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,5500,1227279,00.html

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