Birmingham Post defends IVF competition

By Kevin O’Donovan

The Birmingham Post has said its controversial IVF treatments competition was "never about getting more readers", following the birth of twins to a winning couple.

And former acting editor Tony Lennox, who is now editorial director at Trinity Mirror’s weekly titles in the Midlands, has hit back over coverage of the births in the national press.

Lydia and William Stark (pictured) were one of four couples to be selected in the Trinity Mirror paper’s "Funded Fertility Treatment for All" campaign to receive private IVF treatment worth £3,000.

The campaign was launched in January 2005 to highlight the "lottery" of NHS fertility funding and how those who are unable to afford the treatment do not get it.

It followed a report in which Health Secretary John Reid pushed for all Primary Care Trusts to fund one cycle of treatment per couple.

At the time, the paper, then edited by Fiona Alexander, defended accusations that it was a ‘win a baby’ competition designed to get more readers.

Lennox, who has been in charge of the paper since Alexander’s departure into NHS PR last December, backed up his predecessor’s view. He told Press Gazette: "I’m very proud of the story and the hard work we’ve put into it. It was never about getting more readers.

"The Post acted as a facilitator: the couples chosen were selected by fertility experts based on NHS criteria, and obviously the birth of the babies is great news for the parents involved."

Lennox criticised some national coverage of the story, in particular a story run in the Daily Mail.

He said: "I was pretty pissed off with the emphasis on the ‘competition’ element,"

citing the Mail’s "We won our IVF twins in a newspaper competition" headline from 6 April.

Lennox, who handed over the Post editorship on Monday to Marc Reeves, formerly editorial director of Trinity Mirror Southern, praised the paper’s health reporter Emma Brady, who has followed the story since its launch.

He said there are no plans to offer similar competitions and joked: "We won’t be offering euthanasia next."

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