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Canadian radio ‘Win a Baby’ competition criticised by fertility groups

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Summary of story from the Guardian, October 7, 2011

In Ottawa, Canada, the music station Hot 89.9 is hosting a controversial “win a baby”  contest on its breakfast show.

The prize? Three rounds of fertility treatment worth $35,000 (£21,700) for the contestant who can convince listeners and a panel of judges, including fertility specialists, they are most deserving.

The radio station advertised the competition by featuring photographs of babies next to the slogans “she could be yours” and “are you my mommy?”.

Hot 89.9 claims to have received 400 applications for the contest from a diverse range of people including same-sex couples, single women and cancer patients. The winner will be announced on 10 October.

Fertility treatment is not publicly funded in Ontario and hence, those wanting to start a family through fertility treatment face very high costs.

The competition and its marketing campaign were widely criticised after messages such as “see who you think deserves to win a baby” were broadcast to encourage listeners to vote.

Toronto fertility counsellor Jan Silverman said she objected to “commodification of babies, turning babies into products” but added that the contest raised awareness about fertility issues and the high cost of treatment faced by one in six Ontario couples.

Beverly Hanck, executive director of the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada, dismissed the contest as tacky and distasteful.

However, the contest was described as “an excellent idea” by one applicant, Kristy Middleton Leduc. She and her husband have tried unsuccessfully to conceive for the last two and a half years.

She said: “I would have liked [the competition] a little less in your face. Seeing the baby and wanting it so bad, something doesn’t fit with it.”

Hot 89.9 is the latest Canadian radio station to use shock tactics to win listeners. Other recent prizes have included a Russian bride and breast implants.

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