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Tips for contacting media

Sharing your story with the media

Talking with the media can have great impact. While not everyone is at a place where they are ready to do this, if you would like to take the plunge there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Jot down 3 or 4 key points you want to say so you don’t forget them.
  • BEFORE you start talking to any journalist, say to them “I would like to stay off the record while I get an understanding of what you are working on.” It’s important to clarify the type of story they are doing. We encourage positive, non-stigmatising stories to help bring conversations about FASD into the sunshine.
  • Show them the FASD: Preferred UK Language Guide.
  • Ask where and when the interview will appear – many journalists are ‘freelance’ but they will be writing or interviewing for a specific publication. Sometimes they will re-use material even years later so you need to be clear about any future re-use (especially if a tabloid).
  • Ask what the deadline is. Sometimes they are on a very short deadline, but other times they might be doing research for a bigger story later.
  • YOU GET TO DECIDE how you want to appear in a story. Do you want your full name used or do you want to be anonymous? This should be agreed with the journalist BEFORE YOU START THE INTERVIEW. Please carefully consider any negatives that might come from publicity for you, for your family, for safeguarding purposes, etc.
  • Do you want to have pictures included (it’s okay to say ‘no’ even if some publications may say they can’t run the story then, those are usually tabloids and it’s a sign they may try to sensationalise things). Some people provide photos that don’t show children’s faces – maybe playing on equipment at the park, for example).
  • You can ask them to send you the questions ahead of time. One top tip for printed publications is to ask them to send you the questions and you can reply in writing, that way you can’t be misquoted.
  • You can ask them to let you see your quotes before they publish. 
  • If you don’t want something to be quoted, BEFORE you say it, say “THIS IS OFF THE RECORD.” 
  • If they ask for facts, use a trusted source – don’t ‘wing it’ (we’re here to help with that).
  • If it’s a tv or radio interview and you have a microphone on, just assume it’s recording. Avoid waving hands or fidgeting. Talk like you would normally. Don’t let them drag you into a conversation you don’t want to have. If they ask a question you don’t want to answer, change the subject. Politicians do it all the time!
  • After the interview, ask them to send you a copy of the article/ recording, etc and ask if you can have permission to share it.
  • If you want to practice before your interview, or would like more tips, just contact us. We’re here to help.
  • Try not to be nervous. Your story is yours.  Just speak your truth. That’s all any of us can do. There is great power in that. 

Making a complaint

National FASD trustees and staff held a meeting with senior people from Ofcom to discuss ways to ensure that the issues of alcohol in pregnancy are accurately portrayed in broadcast media. We were strongly encouraged to report any instances where things are not accurately portrayed and to encourage others to do the same. Below is a mini guide to the procedure.

Any complaint regarding a BBC programme should first be pursued directly with the BBC. For other broadcasters and if the BBC has not adequately responded to a direct complaint to them, then contact Ofcom.

How to complain to the BBC

1. Go to the BBC complaints page here.
2. What is your complaint about – click the drop down and choose the tv or radio depending on what you’re complaining about
3. Which channel or service are you complaining about – ie BBC1 (Morning Live) or radio 4 (women’s hour)
4. Are you contacting us about a previous complaint – No
5. Give your complaint a title – Alcohol in pregnancy or morning live or whatever you like
6. Write your complaint in the box -it has to be less than 2000 characters
7. Select the best category to describe your complaint – you could choose factual error/inaccuracy or standards of interviewing/presenting
8. Write the program title – ie Morning Live or Women’s hour 17.06.21
9. Do you require a response to your complaint – Yes
10. Add your personal details and send it in!

When and how to complain to Ofcom

For shows not on the BBC, or if you have complained to the BBC and did not get a satisfactory response, it is critical to register your complaint with Ofcom as well. Their form is here.

Key points to cover to complain about a general news story

People have also asked for suggested text. Obviously amend as you like this is just a start for people but for morning live you could say something like this:
Complaint regarding [show and date]
I would like to complain about how the issue of alcohol and pregnancy [or FASD] was portrayed on [x] which aired on [x].
The whole tone of the piece was inappropriate as it …
The show did not give accurate information as to how serious a matter alcohol use in pregnancy can be or about what the risks are including miscarriage, premature birth, still birth, SIDS, as well as FASD.
FASD is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder affecting more children than autism, with 428 associated conditions. 
The Chief Medical Officers guidelines that state that there is no safe amount of alcohol use in pregnancy. This was a real opportunity to explain the public health messaging. It was deeply offensive to stakeholders within the FASD community that this serious subject was not appropriate covered.
As a public broadcaster you have a duty to ensure that balanced information is given and you failed to do that during this program.
Whenever alcohol and pregnancy is discussed the CMO guidelines should be included and instead of commentators giving opinion and inaccurate information, experts in FASD and those with lived experience should be included.
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