Helpful hints on monitoring TV and Radio
Extracts from the BBC Producers' Guidelines, the ITC's Programme Code, the Radio Authority's Programme Code and the BSC's Code of Guidance follow below.
onitoring Television and Radio is a vitally important part of mediawatch-uk's on-going work. Without reliable information it is impossible for us, as a respected organisation, to respond appropriately to programme content. The impact of Broadcasting on Society is such that it calls for very careful scrutiny. Throughout the world there is widespread concern about the level and cause of social violence and there is now much research demonstrating a clear connection between violence on the screen and violence in society. Furthermore, fictional violence on television, in film and in video is the one contributory factor to social violence that is most easily remedied.
The importance of monitoring was made clear when our Report "MORE CRUELTY AND VIOLENCE 2" was published in August 1996. This report, available from HQ price £3.00, showed that shooting is the most common form of violence portrayed in films screened on the four terrestrial channels. The Daily Express in an editorial comment said: "No amount of evidence will shake the certainty of those who claim there is no connection between violence issuing from TV and videos and its incidence in real life. But anyone who doubts that we are influenced by what we see on the small screen must be mystified by the advertising industry's willingness to spend billions of pounds in the belief that it can influence the way we think and act.
"Those who do accept the connection will be disturbed by the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association's report showing an alarming amount of gun-related violence on the four main TV channels. Much of it occurs after the 9pm watershed. But given the easy access of the young to video recorders, we are entitled to wonder just how effective this traditional watershed now is.
"Indeed, it is more than likely that the very idea of a watershed encourages the broadcasters to think that they are free, thereafter, to put on as much violence as they wish. How wrong they are. Youngsters are not the only people capable of being dangerously influenced by images coming from the small screen; unbalanced or feeble-minded adults are every bit as susceptible. This report suggests that the broadcasters are as far from accepting their responsibilities as ever."
ver the years many studies have been done into the link between screen violence and aggressive behaviour. Professor Rowell Huesmann, of the University of Michigan, said that he is in no doubt that violence on television influenced behaviour. ".... What we have is a situation in which some of the most popular programmes children watch are filled with violence so they see more violence, far more violence, than there is in everyday life" ..... Fictional screen violence, he said, "raises the level of belief in the appropriateness of aggressive and violent behaviour, it raises people's beliefs that this is a mean world, a violent world, and it just makes aggression more acceptable". Panorama 27/2/95
On 7th February 1996 the Daily Mail reported on the results of a new
study by the University of California. The report concluded that television
violence encourages viewers to carry out similar acts. The report also found
that viewers become desensitised to the effects of violence yet more afraid of
being attacked. Researchers looked at 2,500 hours of television and found that
73% of those depicted as committing violent acts go unpunished. When violence
is presented without punishment, viewers are more likely to learn the lesson
that violence is successful. The study found that 47% of violence showed no
harm to victims and 58% no pain. 25% of violent incidents depicted handguns
which can inspire aggressive thoughts and behaviour. Only 4% of the programmes
emphasised non-violent solutions to problems.
fter months of leaks and speculation the report on video violence, commissioned by the Home Office, following the murder of Jamie Bulger, was published in January 1998. Dr Kevin Browne and Amanda Pennell, of the University of Birmingham, concluded that violent offenders are more likely to be adversely influenced by viewing violence portrayed in some video recordings than non-violent offenders and non-offenders.
The research did not set out to prove whether there was a causal link between video violence and criminal behaviour although much of the Television News coverage gave the opposite impression and said that no conclusive proof of such a link had been found.
Dr Browne said that the "home environment" is a key factor in understanding what may influence people to be violent. Children and young people whose home environment is violent are more likely to be violent and aggressive in later life. The findings suggested that offending behaviour and having a preference for violent films may be modified by personality and moral values.
HOW TO MONITOR
he main purpose of monitoring is to examine how programmes measure up to the statutory requirements as set out in the Broadcasting Act 1990, the BBC's Royal Charter 1996, the Independent Television Commission's Programme Code, the BBC's Producers’ Guidelines and the Broadcasting Standards Commission's Code of Practice.
When monitoring the following information is essential: the DATE, the TIME when the programme began and ended, the TITLE of the programme and the TV or radio CHANNEL. When monitoring programmes on Independent Television it is helpful to note the companies and/or products and/or services advertised at the beginning, during and at the end of the programme.
What occurred? Was it a shooting or incident involving a firearm or some other weapon? What sort of firearm or weapon? Was it a violent assault? Who was involved - a man or woman or child? Was the violence explicit (on screen) or implied (off screen)? Did the camera linger on the victim or glamorise the assailant? Was it essential to the plot or was it gratuitous? Were the assailants "good" characters, e.g. police officers or "bad" characters e.g. criminals? Were any special effects used to emphasise the violence, e.g. slow motion? Did the violence involve mass killings and/or spectacular destruction of property? Was the violence in a modern or historical setting? Was the violence within a family home environment or in a public house or some other place? Were animals involved?
List the words or phrases used and note whether the language was used in ordinary conversation or at moments of stress or tension. Indicate who says them and to whom. For example, a man to a woman or a woman to a child or a child to an adult. Or were women and/or children present? Was the language used in a public place or in a home environment or, for example, in a school or a public place? Were the characters "good" e.g. police officer or "bad" e.g. criminal?
Monitoring Sexual Conduct
How explicit were the scenes? Was it close up or distant? Were children seen to be present or watching? Were the scenes used simply to bolster a weak story or plot? Was the sexual conduct with consent or enforced e.g. rape? Were the characters married or single? Were the characters married but being unfaithful to their spouses? Was any cruelty involved? Did it involve children? Were pornographic films or nudity or sado-masochistic practices shown within the film or programme?
Monitoring Drug or Alcohol Consumption
What age were the people involved? Male or female? Which characters
drink and how
much - a little, regularly, often? Are they "good" characters or "bad" characters? Are the characters driving after drinking? Are illegal drugs shown being used either by injection or by swallowing or sniffing? Were children involved in any way?
PROGRAMME REGULATION - BBC
The Royal Charter of the BBC, renewed in 1996, states in Section 5 'Programme Standards' that the Corporation shall do all that it can to secure that all programmes broadcast or transmitted by or on behalf of or under licence from the Corporation as part of the Home Service:
a) provide a properly balanced service consisting of a wide range of subject matters;
b) serve the tastes and needs of different audiences and, in particular, in order to show concern for the young, are placed at appropriate times;
c) treat controversial subjects with due accuracy and impartiality....;
d) do not include anything which offends against good taste or decency or is likely to encourage or incite to crime or lead to disorder or to be offensive to public feeling.
In Section 4 'Objectives for the Home Services' the Charter states that the Corporation must report in reasonable detail on its performance in the Annual Report. A number of requirements for the Annual Report are made including:
d) the subject matter and the handling of complaints from such audiences indicating the proportion which were upheld;
f) the number of complaints made to and upheld by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission and the Broadcasting Standards Council in respect of programmes broadcast or transmitted by or on behalf of the Corporation.
The BBC also issues its own Producer's Guidelines which were published in November 1996 and revised in February 2000. These Guidelines deal with a wide range of subject matter including Impartiality and Accuracy, Taste and Decency, Violence, Imitative and Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime, Relations with the Police, Politics and Politicians, Relations with the Public and Press.
The following are a few extracts from Section 6: Taste and Decency and Section 7: Violence.
he BBC is required in the Agreement associated with its Charter not to broadcast programmes which "include anything which offends against good tsate and decency or is likely to encourage or incite to crime or lead to disorder, or be offensive to public feeling". The BBC seeks to apply this requirement to all its broadcasting, programmes and services, whether for domestic or international audiences.
The BBC's responsibility is to remain in touch with the views of its diverse audiences. These views will differ both domestically and internationally. People of different ages, convictions and cultures nay have sharply different expectations.
The right to challenge audience expectations in surprising and innovative ways, when circumstances justify, must also be safeguarded. Comedy, drama, and the arts will sometimes seek to question existing assumptions about taste. Programmes which question these assumptions should seek to tell the truth about the human ezxperience, including its darker side, but should not set out to demean, brutalise or celebrate cruelty.
Parents with children in the home are likely to be particularly
concerned about what appears on the television. This applies especially when
families are watching television before the Watershed. Most people expect to be
given clear signals about what they will see and hear, especially when new
series or formats appear.
Context is everything: scheduling can be vital to audiences accepting difficult material. It is vital to consider the expectations that audiences have of particular programmes and timeslots.
The widespread availability of material in other media, or on other broadcasters is not reason enough to judge it acceptable. What is commonplace in cinema, video, computer programs or on the Internet will not necessarily be appropriate for BBC television or radio.
Programme makers should remember that they are a minority, but one with considerable influence; they should be aware of and respect their audiences' diverse views on what causes offence.
2 TELEVISION: The Watershed
he BBC has a well-established policy of making 9pm the pivotal point of the evening's television, a Watershed before which, except in exceptional circumstances, all programmes on our domestic channels should be suitable for a general audience including children. The earlier in the evening a programme is placed, the more suitable it is likely to be for children to watch on their own.
The Watershed reminds broadcasters that particular care should be taken over inclusion of explicit scenes of sex and violence, and the use of strong language.
Particular care should be taken in the period immediately after the watershed. There should be a gradual; transition towards more adult material and sudden changes in tone should be avoided but, where unavoidable, they must be clearly signposted. Adult material should never be positioned close to the Watershed simply to attract audiences in a sensationalist way. Material which is particularly adult in tone should be scheduled at an appropriate time, where necessary some time after the Watershed.
The Watershed is a commonly held convention in British television, and all BBC public service and commercial television services aimed primarily at the United Kingdom should observe it.
Scheduling can be vital to public acceptance of challenging material. Whether or not scenes of violence, sex, great distress or strong language cause offence to an audience can depend not just on editorial or dramatic context, but on sensitive scheduling decisions. A good rule of thumb is to avoid taking the audience by surprise. Announcements and warnings can play an important part in this.
Click here for ‘A Chip Too Far’ setting out mediawatch-uk’s position on the Watershed (blue text)
he BBC has a responsibility to ensure that audiences have enough information on which to judge if a programme is likely to be one they want to watch or listen to, or if it is suitable for their children to see and hear. The Watershed is one clear and widely understood indicator for television, but there are instances when additional information is necessary.
4.1 Trails on television and radio
he Guidelines also apply to trails on both media. Care should be taken over scheduling trails of programmes that are unsuitable for children. For example, television programmes may be appropriately scheduled after the Watershed; the related trails, on the other hand, may well be broadcast earlier, when children may be watching. In such circumstances the content of the trail should be appropriate for children or family-viewing. However, such a trail should clearly signpost the nature of the programme.
No trail for a programme of a post-Watershed nature should be scheduled next to a programme specifically targeted at children.
trong language is a subject of deep concern to many people and is one of the most frequent causes of complaint. Offence is more likely to be caused if audiences are taken by surprise when strong language occurs without warning, is contrary to the expectations of the programme's audience or feels gratuitous. In the right context strong language may cause little offence and in some situations it may be wholly justified in the interests of authenticity. Common sense should enable producers to identify which words are questionable and when the use of them might be warranted. Programme makers should be aware that terms of racist abuse are now considered to be offensive by all sections of the audience. Sexual swearwords and abusive names relating to disabilities can also cause great offence. They should ask themselves constantly whether the use of strong language will simply alienate a large part of the audience. The inclusion of strong language is a matter for judgement by individual producers, in consultation with Heads of Department or Commissioning Executives when necessary. The most offensive language should not be used on television before 9pm, and after 9pm it should be only following careful consideration.
Certain, mainly four-letter, words must not be used on television, radio or online without advance reference to and approval from Channel and Network Controllers of the domestic services, in the World Service the relevant Regional Head, or in Worldwide Television, the Director of Broadcasting.
Click here for ‘The Daily Grunt’
he portrayal and depiction of sex will always be a part of drama and factual programmes because of the important part it plays in most people's emotions and experience. In this, as in most areas of taste, public attitudes have shifted over time. Broadly, audiences in the United Kingdom have become more liberal in their acceptance of sexually explicit material while attitudes around the world are mixed. Even so programme-makers broadcasting to diverse audiences in their homes, are not as free as film-makers, theatre dramatists and novelists whose audiences are self- selected.
Adults who accept frank portrayal of sex and sexuality in other formats or on television in the later evening, often demand different standards at other times. Those watching with children before 9pm expect programme makers to observe the Watershed by exercising appropriate restraint. Context, the intention of the production, the expectations of the audience, the Watershed and signposting are all vital.
We use the Watershed to try to ensure that adults view what is intended for adults. Sexual activity is linked to moral decisions, therefore its portrayal should not be separated from an acknowledgement of the moral process.
Drama and factual programmes have a part to play in illuminating the darker side of human nature. Sometimes themes and images are explored which may shock. The tests to apply are intention, (are we illuminating?), and judgement (does our portrayal demean or degrade?. We must draw the line well short of anything that might be labelled obscene or pornographic. For example, real, as opposed to simulated, sexual intercourse should not be shown.
We try to operate by certain basic rules that apply to the depiction of all sexual activity:
* programmes should be adequately and clearly signposted
* scenes should have a clear and legitimate editorial purpose and not be gratuitous
* sexually explicit material will not appear before the Watershed, nor
at inappropriate times too close to the Watershed
* there are limits to explicit portrayal at any time.
* material involving sexual violence or sadism will be treated with particular care and circumspection.
Sexual scenes that will disturb or shock should occur only for good dramatic reasons. In particular, viewers remain concerned about the depiction of sexual violence against women and sadistic sexual material. Such material demands careful consultation within departments and with Channel Controllers or, at their request, Chief Adviser Editorial Policy.
Attitudes to homosexuality differ both domestically and internationally. Research suggests that in Britain audiences are becoming more tolerant of the portrayal and discussion of homosexuality, and while some international audiences are more liberal, some are more conservative. Nevertheless, programme makers should be mindful that a significant part of the audience is critical of any depiction of homosexual acts.
Explicit sexual conduct between adults and children should not be depicted. The Protection of Children Act 1978 makes it an offence to take an indecent photograph of a child under the age of sixteen or to involve a child below that age in a photograph which is itself indecent even if the child's role is not.
11 COMEDY AND ENTERTAINMENT
Comedy enjoys special licence. It flourishes on departures from the norm, and exploiting people's misfortunes. Even so it must be well judged, not gratuitous, unnecessarily cruel or designed to harm or humiliate a person or group. General relaxation about sexual matters does not justify crudity.
It is clear that screen violence does upset many people and, in excess, it can be accused of desensitising viewers. Audiences remain concerned about the portrayal of violence, especially violence they perceive as realistic and therefore true to life or violence that is close to their own experience.
Most audiences expect any violent scenes in news, factual programmes and television drama to serve a moral or a social point. In feature films and occasional comedy, there is some acceptance that certain types of stylised screen violence can be entertaining.
Editors and producers can become very involved in the material they work with and it is always necessary to step back and think about its impact. It is important, for example, to consider:
* whether a violent incident is appropriate within its context
* the impact of violent episodes on the viewer at home seeing them for the first time
* the cumulative effect if programmes containing violence are scheduled close together, or the programme is to be repeated frequently.
3. VIOLENCE IN FICTION
3.1 Adult Drama
rama must be able to explore important issues truthfully, and violence
is part of both nature and society. However, where a theme is likely to involve
scenes of strong violence, they should be identified in advance by the producer
and director so that potential problems can be resolved at the script stage.
There should be consultations within departments, and if necessary with Channel
Controllers or, at their request, Chief Adviser Editorial Policy.
Programme makers should ask whether the violent incident and the detail shown are essential to the story or whether it has been included simply for its own sake. The use of violence should never be gratuitous.
Serious drama demands more of audiences; they in turn respect the challenge of a violent or distressing scene if they are convinced of its dramatic purpose.
Programme makers should take particular care when violence involves one or more of the following:
* situations close to the audiences own experience, or which they perceive as being true to life
* domestic and sexual violence
* scenes where women and children are portrayed as victims
* scenes of extreme or sustained violence of any sort
* the context appearing to encourage approval of violence
* suicide or attempted suicide
The consequences of violent acts should not be overlooked, otherwise there is danger of seeming to sanitise them. For example, a blow to the head must not, in a realistic setting, be seen as a trivial matter without serious consequences.
It is important to take particular care when dealing with weapons that might encourage imitation, especially the use of easily accessible weapons such as knives, hammers or pokers, or methods that might suggest how violence can be made more effective.
Violence is not always physical. Verbal aggression can be profoundly disturbing, particularly when the words used have sexual power. Care must be taken to ensure suitability for the intended time of transmission, particularly if audiences are likely to include children.
3.2 Acquired Programmes
any of the general points made about BBC drama apply to acquired programmes. The content of films or drama not originally commissioned by the BBC cannot be controlled in the same way, but nonetheless it must conform to BBC editorial standards. For detailed guidance see section 12 "Acquired Programmes" in Chapter 6: Taste and Decency. (This section is reproduced below)
Some feature films, whether made in Britain or abroad, are suitable only
for adult audiences. The British Board of Film Classification categorises every
film for cinema or video release in the UK. While these classifications offer
some guidance to their suitability for showing on BBC Television, they cannot
be accepted without
question. Tastes change and films once regarded as wholly unsuitable may become acceptable; but some films may never be acceptable on television. Special care must be taken over the acquisition of films which have an '18' certificate.
Acquired programmes need to be double checked in detail prior to transmission to identify any need to edit, to place the programme after the Watershed, or to issue a warning in the billings, and/or on air.
Some viewers object strongly to any editing of feature films. The BBC will try to ensure that editing interferes as little as possible with the original intentions of the filmmaker. In addition, after the Watershed on BBC2, films which have received a certification for showing in cinemas or on home video will normally be shown unedited.
3.3 Children and Violence
here is evidence that violence in circumstances resembling real life is more upsetting than violence in a fantasy setting. Children may feel particularly distressed when violence occurs in a familiar setting or between familiar figures. For instance, violence in the home between characters resembling their parents, or towards characters or pets, with which the child can sympathise, should be avoided. Children can also be particularly distressed by violence involving animals.
The dangers of imitation are particularly real among children. Extra care should be taken, for example, over karate chops or the use of weapons that are easily accessible such as ropes or knives or bottles. Criminal acts, if shown, should not become lessons in "how to do it". It is also important not to conceal the consequences of real-life violence.
3.4 Violence Against Women
iolence against women in drama should not encourage the notion that women are to be exploited or degraded through violence or are, other than exceptionally, willing victims of violence. Rape is nothing but a tragedy for its victim and it would be wrong to suggest otherwise.
Violence against women should not be portrayed as an erotic experience. Where in rare cases, a link between violence and sexual gratification is explored as a serious theme in drama, any depiction must be justified by its context and not simply designed to arouse.
Similar sensitivities apply to violence against children.
Click here for ‘Promoting a Culture of Violence 2’
4 SCHEDULING, WARNINGS AND THE WATERSHED
hen factual programmes or drama are to include violence scenes, consider using warnings to prevent the audience from being taken unawares. This is a key to avoiding widespread offence. Remember that the nature of the programme may be signposted through trails, publicity, promotional material and listings. These are not, however, a substitute for clear and unambiguous on-air warnings. If a programme is tough to watch, viewers should be told. Programme departments should alert the channel controllers and presentation departments in advance when they judge a warning is required so that the overall amount of violence in the schedule can be kept under review.
On television, the Watershed is the pivotal point in the evening
schedule. Particular care should therefore be given to avoid the depiction of
unsuitable violence in the early evening including trails for post-Watershed
The BBC's Producer's Guidelines, revised in February 2000 are available from: BBC Publications, Broadcasting House, LONDON, W1A 1AA. No price or ISBN is shown.
PROGRAMME REGULATION - THE ITC
Reproduced below are the Foreword and some sections of the ITC Programme Code revised and effective from April 2001
The ITC Programme Code sets out the editorial standards which audiences are
entitled to expect from commercial television services in the UK. It aims to
ensure that requirements covering programme content which Parliament stipulated in the 1990 and 1996 Broadcasting Acts are met, while allowing for and encouraging creativity, development and innovation.
All commercial television operators in the UK have to have a licence from the ITC. A condition of every licence is compliance with the Programme Code.
The Code applies to all licensed programme services, not just the free to air channels. It also covers certain foreign satellite programmes included in local delivery services. In some cases, the Code makes different provision for different types of service.
It is the responsibility of the licence holders to ensure their programmes and services operate within the framework of the Code. They should have in place procedures for ensuring that programme makers can seek guidance on the Code within the company at a senior level. The ITC itself monitors programme output on transmission and also receives complaints from members of the public. The ITC's programme of research and analysis also tracks changing public expectations and responses to help with the regulatory work of interpreting and applying the Code.
Where the Code has been breached, the ITC may use sanctions against licence holders, including financial penalties, to support the Code and the standards audiences can expect. Licensees are obliged to report to the ITC on how they deal with complaints from the public which they receive directly themselves. Provision of effective consumer services in respect of complaints from the public about content is also a condition of all ITC licences. Where a complaint is about a matter of substance relating to the Broadcasting Act, the complainant must always be informed of other avenues available to pursue the matter. The ITC takes all complaints seriously and, where it feels a complaint to be justified, will take action with the licensee concerned.
The Legal Background to the Code
The Programme Code gives effect to some requirements directly stipulated by the Broadcasting Act 1990 such as due impartiality, the portrayal of violence, appeals for donations and the need for due responsibility in religious programmes (see Appendix 1).
The ITC has reviewed the Code in the light of the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998, effective from 2 October 2000. Relevant provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights are set out in Section 2. However, it is emphasised that all sections of the Code have been reviewed to ensure compliance with the Act and the Convention.
The Code also gives effect in the UK to a number of requirements relating to television programmes in the European Union Directive on Television Broadcasting and Council of Europe Convention on Transfrontier Television (see Appendix 4).
In drawing up the Code, the ITC has taken into account the requirement 'to reflect the general effect' of the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC)'s Code under the Broadcasting Act 1996.
General Guidance on the Code
The ITC is willing to give general guidance on the interpretation of this Code. However, licensees have the responsibility of ensuring that any programmes they transmit comply with the Code. Before granting a licence, the ITC needs evidence that the licence holder has sufficient resources and expertise to ensure compliance. Programme makers, independent producers or others supplying programme material should seek guidance on specific proposals from the licensee.
No Code of this kind can be all-inclusive. The Code is not a complete guide to good practice in every situation, nor does it say everything that can be said on the topics it covers. Licensees should therefore aim to operate within the spirit of the Code as well as the strict letter of it. The Code is subject to interpretation in the light of changing circumstances and on some matters it may be necessary to introduce fresh requirements or advice from time to time.
The Code plays a vital part in the maintenance of consistently good, reliable standards in the enormous range of programming available to viewers of commercial television in the UK. Through the ITC as regulator, the Code provides an essential link between viewers and competing broadcasters, supporting consumer confidence in television as a whole, and underpinning viewers' trust in and enjoyment of a wide variety of services.
Family Viewing Policy, Offence to Good Taste and Decency, Portrayal of Violence and Respect for Human Dignity
1.1 General requirement
Section 6(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1990 requires that the ITC does all it can to secure that every licensed service includes nothing in its programmes which offends against good taste or decency or is likely to encourage or incite to crime or lead to disorder or be offensive to public feeling.
Section 7(1)(a) requires the ITC to draw up a code giving guidance as to the rules to be observed with respect to the showing of violence, or the inclusion of sounds suggestive of violence, in programmes included in licensed services, particularly when large numbers of children and young people may be expected to be watching the programmes. Programme services are free to deal appropriately with all elements of the human experience but should avoid gratuitous offence by providing information and guidance to audiences, bearing in mind the expectations of those watching. Decisions on programme content will vary according to the time of day, nature of the channel and the likely audience. This is true not only in respect of children but for audiences in general. Viewers are more likely to experience distress or offence as a result of strong material if they are taken unawares.
1.2 Family Viewing Policy and the Watershed
Material unsuitable for children must not be transmitted at times when large numbers of children may be expected to be watching.
However the ITC accepts that, even though some children are always likely to be present in the audience, the likelihood varies according to the time, subject matter and channel. The majority of homes do not contain children and viewers have a right to expect a range of subject matter.
The necessary compromise is embodied in the ITC's Family Viewing Policy which assumes a progressive decline throughout the evening in the proportion of children viewing, matched by a progression towards material more suitable for adults.
Within the progression, 9pm is normally fixed as the time up to which licensees are responsible for ensuring that nothing is shown that is unsuitable for children. The earlier in the evening a programme is shown, the greater the care required.
Not all daytime or early evening programming will be suitable for very young children. Licensees should provide sufficient information, in terms of regular scheduling patterns and on-air advice, to assist parents to make viewing choices.
After the watershed, and until 5.30am, material more suitable for an adult audience may be shown. However, care should be taken in the period immediately after the watershed. There should be a gradual transition and it may be that a programme will be acceptable at 10.30pm for example that would not be suitable at 9pm. Decisions will also depend on the nature of the channel and the audience it attracts. Material which is particularly adult in tone should be scheduled appropriately and clearly signposted.
Particular care should be taken over programmes of special appeal to children which may start before the watershed but run beyond that time; and with programming during school holidays, when children will be part of the audience throughout the day and may also go to bed later. Dates of school holidays vary across the UK.
There is evidence that children find violence which resembles real life more upsetting than violence in a fantasy context but any sequence which might unsettle younger children needs special care. Particular distress can be caused where such violence occurs in a domestic setting and scenes of serious domestic conflict whether or not accompanied by physical violence or threat, can cause fear and insecurity. News bulletins should take account of the Family Viewing Policy (see 1.7(ii)).
While it is accepted that stylised violence can be entertaining and often humorous in comedy and in animation, more serious representation, for example, in children's drama, should always be editorially justified and should ensure that the consequences of violence are treated appropriately.
Bad language (including profanity) should not be used in programmes made for children (see 1.5).
Unless otherwise stated, any reference in the Code to 'children' means those aged 15 or under. A reference to 'young persons' means those aged 16 or 17 use, in a manner likely to cause serious injury, of knives and other offensive weapons, articles or substances. Certain household goods, such as microwaves and tumble-dryers readily accessible to children, can cause harm if misused and care should be taken with the portrayal of any such use. Certain locations, such as railway lines, can raise similar concerns.
Films or programmes including hanging or preparations for hanging capable of easy imitation should not be scheduled to start during family viewing time unless there are strong grounds for believing that imitation is unlikely (e.g. a historic setting). Special care is required with material including 'comic' treatments which may lead children to fail to recognise potentially dangerous play especially where there is no serious outcome.
Smoking and drinking should be avoided in children's programmes, and included only when there is a strong editorial case for their inclusion. In other programmes likely to be widely seen by children and young people,
smoking and drinking should be included only where context or dramatic veracity requires it. In such programmes smoking should not be prominently featured as a normal and attractive activity. The same concerns apply and particular care is needed with any programme dealing with or involving representations of drug abuse (see also 5.8 and 5.9).
1.3 Information, Advice and Warnings
Labelling, classification details and other information announcements have a helpful role in enabling viewers to make appropriate choices at all times. They are particularly important on free-to-air, general and basic tier
Licensees should consider whether any elements of programming might disturb viewers, in particular younger children. Appropriate information should be provided at the start of any programme, or news report, which might disturb younger children.
Warnings about issues of taste, decency and potential offence are unlikely to be appropriate before the watershed (although exceptional circumstances may arise during news reports).
Later in the evening, clear and specific warnings should be employed where there is the likelihood that some viewers may find the programme disturbing or offensive. This does not diminish the licensees' responsibility for sensitive scheduling of programmes to reduce the risk of offence to the minimum. See also 1.4(i).
1.3(i) Warnings in Relation to Programmes Likely to Harm Children
European Council's Television Without Frontiers Directive 1997 (Article 22.1) requires that broadcasters take "appropriate measures to ensure that television broadcasts… do not include any programmes which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors, in particular programmes that involve pornography or gratuitous violence". The legislation also requires broadcasters to include either acoustic warnings before, or visual symbols throughout, to alert viewers to other programmes, broadcast in unencoded form, that are likely to impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors. Such programmes, even broadcast late at night, must therefore, at a minimum, be preceded by verbal warnings to this effect.
Warnings should be included, for example, where programmes include the strongest acceptable sexual material, violence or themes (such as child abuse or the use of drugs) treated in a way likely to be harmful to children.
1.4 Feature Films and Other Acquired Material
Where a British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) Classification exists for the version of a film or programme proposed for transmission, it should be used as a guide to scheduling. A BBFC video classification, rather than the cinema classification, should always be the guide where one exists.
The following basic rules apply except where satisfactory security mechanisms are imposed: (see 1.4(ii)), when rules (a), (b) and (c) do not apply).
a) No '12' rated version should normally start before 8pm on any service.
b) No '15' rated version should normally start before 9pm (or 8pm on premium rate subscription services, contents permitting).
c) No '18' rated version should start before 10pm on any service. This rule may be relaxed if the classification was made more than 10 years ago and the film is now clearly suitable for earlier transmission.
d) No 'R18' version should be transmitted at any time.
e) No version refused a BBFC certification should be transmitted at any time.
These are minimum requirements. In particular, many '15' rated films will not be suitable for as early as 8pm even on a subscription channel if, for example, they include graphic scenes of drug taking, sexual intercourse or higher than usual levels of violence. Where no BBFC certification exists and the licensee relies on this Code for guidance, special consideration should be given to the interests of children.
Questions arising from particular BBFC decisions should be taken up with the BBFC but the final responsibility must always rest with the licensee. Licensees transmitting to countries other than the UK should take local time as a guide, using the most westerly time zone in the transmission area.
1.4(i) Premium Subscription Services
The decision to subscribe to a specialist channel available only to those who have specifically chosen it, carries with it an acceptance of a greater share of responsibility by parents for what is viewed and the watershed on such channels is set at 8pm rather than 9pm. Any channel which has not been individually purchased in this way must comply with the 9pm watershed.
Services which are available only to adults who have specifically chosen them may, between the hours of 10pm and 5.30am, include material of a more adult kind than would be acceptable at the same time on a more broadly available service. Arrangements for subscriptions to such services, including access by the night, must include measures that ensure that the subscriber is an adult. No 'R18' or version refused a BBFC certification may be shown at any time.
1.4(ii) Pay Per View Services
Where security mechanisms, such as a PIN system or equivalent, satisfactorily restrict access to films or programmes solely to those authorised to view, watershed rules may be waived. The mandatory security mechanism and the safeguards that it provides for children must be clearly explained to all subscribers. It should normally be supported by a detailed billing system that enables subscribers to check all viewing and, in particular, out-of-watershed viewing. In addition operators are expected to implement a suitable film classification system, or equivalent, and to provide any additional information about programme content and reasons for any restrictions that might assist parents and other adults to judge the suitability of material for children.
Pay per view channels may only show films and programmes that are acceptable on other ITC licensed services and should exercise caution in the scheduling of controversial material which may be considered unsuitable for day-time showing. In particular, 'adult' sex material may not be shown outside the hours set aside for 'more adult material' (10pm to 5.30am). Further guidance is available on request.
1.4(iii) Trailers and Programme Promotions
Viewers do not choose to see promotional material, so special care is required in scheduling. All trailers and promotions shown before the watershed must comply with Family Viewing Policy.
1.5 Bad Language
There is no absolute ban on the use of bad language. But many people are offended, some of them deeply, by the use of bad language, including expletives with a religious (and not only Christian) association. Offence is most likely if the language is contrary to audience expectation. Bad language must be defensible in terms of context and scheduling with warnings where appropriate. The most offensive language must not be used before the watershed and bad language of any sort must not be a frequent feature before then. (See also Section 1.8) Bad language (including profanity), should not be used in programmes specially designed for children.
1.6 Sex and Nudity
Similar considerations apply. Much great fiction and drama have been concerned with love and passion which can shock and disturb. Popular entertainment and comedy have always relied to some extent on sexualinnuendo and suggestive behaviour but gratuitous offence should be avoided.
Careful consideration should be given to nudity before the watershed but some nudity may be justifiable in a non-sexual and relevant context.
Representations of sexual intercourse should not occur before the watershed unless there is a serious educational purpose. Any portrayal of sexual behaviour must be defensible in context. If included before the watershed it must be appropriately limited and inexplicit.
Sex scenes of a more adult nature, which are more graphic and prolonged, should be limited to much later in the schedule. (See also Section 1.3(i))
The real world contains violence in many forms. It is reasonable for television to reflect this but it is clear that the portrayal of violence, whether physical, verbal or psychological, can upset, disturb and offend and can be accused of desensitising viewers, of making them unduly fearful or of encouraging imitation. These are legitimate public concerns requiring careful consideration whenever violence, real or simulated, is to be shown.The treatment of violence must always be appropriate to the context, scheduling, channel and audience expectations.
a) Offensive violence
At the simplest level, some portrayed acts of violence may go beyond the bounds of what is tolerable in that they could be classified as material which, in the words of the Broadcasting Act, is 'likely to be offensive to public feeling'. Licensees must consider the editorial justification carefully, including the context of the violence portrayed, the time of the broadcast, any warning provided and the likely audience. There can be no defence of violence shown or heard for its own sake, or for the gratuitous presentation of sadistic practices. Research indicates that viewers are most likely to be offended by explicit images of distress and injury, and of blood, particularly if they occur suddenly or unexpectedly.
b) Psychological Harm to Young and Vulnerable Viewers
There is portrayed violence which is potentially so disturbing that it might be psychologically harmful, particularly for young or emotionally insecure viewers. Research evidence shows that the socially or emotionally insecure individual, particularly if adolescent, is especially vulnerable. The susceptibilities of this minority must be balanced against the rights of the more robust majority. Responsible scheduling and appropriate content advice to viewers are both particularly relevant here.
c) Imitable violence
Violence portrayed on television may be imitated in real life. Portrayals of dangerous behaviour, capable of easy imitation, must always be justified by the dramatic and editorial requirements of the programme. Unfamiliar methods of inflicting pain and injury capable of easy imitation should not be included.
d) Cumulative effects of violence
The regular and recurrent spectacle of violence may lead viewers to become less sensitive to violence or to overestimate the level of violence in the real world. Licensees must take into account the potential cumulative effect of violent material.
e) Sexual violence
Research indicates that there is particular danger in representations of violence in a sexual context. Scenes of rape, or other non-consensual sex, especially where there is graphic physical detail or the action is to any degree prolonged, require great care. Graphic portrayal of violent sexual behaviour, or violence in a sexual context, is justifiable only very exceptionally.
Further guidance is offered in Appendix 2 (Statement of Common Principles on the Portrayal of Violence on Television).
1.7(i) Suicide and Suicide Attempts: the Risk of Imitation
Common sense dictates that the subject of suicide be handled with care and discretion, particularly in popular drama serials. There should be no more detailed demonstration of the means or method of suicide than is justified by the context, scheduling and likely audience for the programme. Where appropriate, professional advice or guidance should be sought from voluntary organisations such as the Samaritans.
1.7(ii) Violence in News and other Programmes
a) News and current affairs programmes are subject, like any other programming, to the requirements of Family Viewing Policy. This does not restrict the range of subjects covered in any news bulletin or programme or imply that some news events may not be properly covered before the watershed; it does require that all material is presented in a manner that takes account of the likely composition of the audience, and that appropriate warnings are given. Care should be taken about the frequency with which scenes of violence are repeated in succeeding news bulletins, particularly when significant numbers of children could be watching.
b) Special consideration should be given to the possible effect of coverage of violent events upon local viewers in the United Kingdom (or other countries where the programme is seen) for whom it might cause particular anxiety. Nothing shown should encourage or incite to crime or lead to
c) Whether in news, current affairs or other programmes, actuality footage of executions or other scenes in which people are clearly seen being killed or about to die require exceptional justification.
See also Section 5.7 of this Code (presence of television cameras at demonstrations and scenes of public disturbance).
1.8 Respect for Human Dignity and Treatment of Minorities
Viewers have a right to expect that licensed services will reflect their responsibility to preserve human dignity, as far as possible, in respect of both individuals (see Section 2) and individuals as members of groups.
Individuals should not be exploited needlessly or caused unnecessary distress, nor should the audience be made to feel mere voyeurs of others' distress.
In particular, consideration should be given to the treatment of vulnerable minorities, bearing in mind the likely effects of both misrepresentation and under-representation.
1.8(i) Ethnic Minorities
No programme should be transmitted which is intended to stir up racial hatred or, taking into account the circumstances, is likely to do so: where appropriate, schedules should give a fair reflection of the contribution of all races to society.
Racist terms should be avoided. Insensitive comments or stereotyped portrayal may cause offence. Their inclusion is acceptable only where it can be justified within the context of the programme.
Careful account should be taken of the possible effect upon the racial minority concerned, as well as the population as a whole, and of the changes in public attitudes to what is, and is not, acceptable.
1.8(ii) People with Disabilities
The same concerns apply. There is a danger of offence in the use of humour based on physical, mental or sensory disability, even where no malice is present. Reference to disability should be included only where necessary to the context and patronising expressions replaced by neutral terms. It should be possible for people with disabilities to be included in programmes of all kinds.
More information on the portrayal of people with disabilities is available from the Broadcasters' Disability Network, Nutmeg House, 60 Gainsford Street, London SE1 2NY (tel. 020 7403 3020).
1.8(iii) Other Minorities
Similar considerations apply to the treatment of other, less obvious and vulnerable, minorities including older people, homosexuals, and minority religious faiths or language groups.
Care needs to be taken to minimise the risk of hypnosis being induced in susceptible viewers. In particular, the hypnotist must not be shown performing straight to camera. Licensees should refer to the Hypnotism Act 1952 (Appendix 4).
1.10 The Occult and 'Psychic' Practices
Actual demonstrations of exorcisms and occult practices such as those involving supposed contact with spirits or the dead, are not acceptable in factual programming except in the context of a legitimate investigation.
They should not, in any case, be shown before the watershed.
Horoscopes, palmistry and similar 'psychic' practices are only acceptable where they are presented as entertainment or are the subject of legitimate investigation. They should not include specific advice to particular contributors or viewers about health or medical matters or about personal finance. They should not be included at times when large numbers of children are expected to be watching.
Fiction programmes containing 'psychic' phenomena should not normally be scheduled before the watershed, although a fantasy setting, for example, may justify such scheduling.
1.11 Recorded Programmes
Programmes not used immediately should be checked before transmission to ensure that any content is not rendered tasteless or offensive by intervening events, such as death, injury or other misfortune.
1.12 Images of Very Brief Duration
1.12(i) General requirements
Section 6(1)(e) of the Broadcasting Act 1990 requires that the ITC do all it can to secure that 'programmes do not include any technical device which, by using images of very brief duration or by any other means, exploits the possibility of conveying a message to, or otherwise influencing the minds of, persons watching the programmes without their being aware, or fully aware, of what has occurred'.
1.12(ii) Programme practice
Images of very brief duration are unlikely to be in conflict with the Act unless there is some intention of covertly influencing the minds of viewers, for example for a commercial or political purpose. A very brief image used
in context and as part of a straightforward message will probably not offend against the Act. In such circumstances the viewer will know exactly what the message is that is being conveyed and how it is intended to influence their mind.
Where, however, a very brief image is used out of context and relates to something entirely different from what precedes or follows it, the duration of the image should be sufficiently long to be clearly discernible and understandable.
1.12(iii) Use of flashing images and regular patterns
Flashing lights and certain types of regular visual patterns can cause problems for some viewers who have photo?sensitive epilepsy. People below the age of 20 years are the most susceptible group and many are unaware of their susceptibility. Care must be taken to minimise these risks in all programmes, but especially those where young people are likely to be watching in significant numbers. This might mean cutting or amending certain scenes or sequences or rejecting entirely some material, such as a pop video.
At times difficulties in minimising the effects may be encountered, for example with some types of live coverage, such as a news report or acquired material, such as a film. Where there is likely to be significant risk, viewers should be given an appropriate warning at the start of the programme or programme item.
Licensees should refer to ITC Guidance Note 'Flashing Images and Regular Patterns in Television' which outlines the technical parameters for minimising risk levels.
Privacy, Gathering of Information, etc.
The principles of the right to respect for private and family life and the right to freedom of expression are reflected in Article 8 and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into UK law in the
Human Rights Act 1998. As a public authority, the ITC must seek to ensure that the guidance given throughout this Code is consistent with Convention principles.
Right to respect for private and family life
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Freedom of expression
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Licensees may make programmes about any issues they choose. However, the method of treatment is limited by the obligations of fairness and a respect for truth, two qualities which are essential to all factually based programmes.
2.1(i) The Public Interest
There will be occasions when an individual's right to respect for private and family life, or a licensee's right to freedom of expression, may be restricted in the public interest. Any act that relies on a defence of public interest must be proportional to the actual interest served. This will be a balancing exercise which will depend on the individual circumstances of each case. Where, for example, there is a significant intrusion into an individual's private affairs, particularly where that individual is innocent of any offence and/or where there is a significant risk of distress, an important public interest is likely to be required.
Examples of a public interest which may justify an intrusion into an individual's privacy include: (i) detecting or exposing crime or a serious misdemeanour; (ii) protecting public health or safety; (iii) preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of an individual or organisation; (iv) exposing significant incompetence in public office. Where freedom of expression is to be restricted, examples of public interest include ensuring the fair conduct of judicial proceedings or protecting public morals.
The new ITC Programme Code, issued in April 2001, is available free of charge from: The ITC, 33 Foley Street, London, W1P 7LB.
We recommend study of the full Code which covers other matters on Impartiality, Party Political and Parliamentary Broadcasting, Terrorism, Crime, Anti Social Behaviour, Charitable Appeals, Religion etc.
PROGRAMME STANDARDS: THE RADIO AUTHORITY
Taste, Decency, Offence to Public Feeling and the Portrayal of Violence.
1.2 Protection of Younger Listeners
roper regard for taste and decency, and the manner of portrayal of violence, are clearly an area where the position of the younger listeners needs to be considered. It is not one that lends itself to the laying down of hard and fast rules. But licensees must be vigilant, and sensitive to the problems and have regard to the following:
(c) When programming is specifically directed at a young audience ... care must be taken to avoid content such as: strong language; explicit violent or sexual topics in a frank manner; musical items with violent or sexually explicit lyrics; fictional material with strong language or violent scenarios.
he gratuitous use of offensive language, including blasphemy must be avoided. Bad language and blasphemy must not be used in programmes aimed at young listeners or when audience research indicates they might be expected to be listening in significant numbers.
There is no absolute ban on the use of bad language but its use must be defensible in terms of context and authenticity...
1.4 Sexual Matters
(a) The portrayal of, or the allusion to, sexual behaviour must be defensible in context and presented with tact and discretion. Smut and crudity must be avoided.
(b) No portrayal or description of sexual activity between humans and animals or between adults and children may be transmitted and these can be referred to in programmes only after consultation at senior radio management level.
(c) Gratuitous sexual stereotyping must be avoided.
1.6 Portrayal of Violence
(a) Violence must never be glorified or applauded.
(b) The degree of violence portrayed or described must be essential to the integrity and completeness of the item.
(c) Violence must not be described solely for its own sake, or for the gratuitous exploitation of sadistic or other perverted practices. In particular, descriptions of sexual violence should be treated with extreme care.
(d) Methods of inflicting pain or injury, particularly if ingenious or unfamiliar or capable of easy imitation, must not be described or portrayed without the most careful consideration.
(f) the cumulative effects of violence must be avoided. What might be tolerable in a single programme may add up to an unacceptable level over time.
The portrayal of violence, whether physical, verbal or psychological, is an area of public concern ... Violence portrayed or described on radio may be imitated in real life. Regular and recurrent descriptions of violence might lead listeners to think such behaviour has been given the stamp of approval. Once violence is thus accepted and tolerated people may, it is believed, tend to become more callous and indifferent to the suffering imposed on the victims of violence.
Some violence is potentially so disturbing that it might be psychologically harmful, particularly for young or emotionally insecure listeners.
1.7 Behaviour Easily Imitated by Children
The portrayal or description of dangerous behaviour easily imitated by children, including the use of offensive weapons or articles readily accessible to them, must not be broadcast when children are likely to be listening.
The new Radio Authority Programme Code, issued in March 1998, is available free of charge from The Radio Authority, Holbrook House, 14 Queen Street, Holborn, LONDON, WC2B 5DG.
We recommend study of the full Programme Code which covers other matters on Accuracy and Misleadingness, Privacy, Crime, Terrorism and Anti-Social Behaviour, Other Legal Matters, Religious and other Spiritual or Ethereal Matters, Public Accountability and Programme Sponsorship Code.
PROGRAMME REGULATION - BROADCASTING STANDARDS COMMISSION
The BSC Code of Practice (third edition). The following are a few extracts showing page numbers:
p5 Through its codes, the Commission seeks to inform and sustain the debate about issues of fairness and standards in broadcasting. Within the areas of the Commission's particular responsibilities, these codes express the considerations which the Commission believes should be kept in the mind of everyone concerned with standards in broadcasting, whether as providers, citizens or consumers. They will be kept under review in light of the Commission's experience and research as well as further changes in the broadcasting landscape.
There is an implied contract between the viewer, the listener and the broadcaster about the terms of admission to the home. The most frequent reason for viewers or listeners finding a particular item offensive is that it flouts their expectation of that contract - expectations about what sort of material should be broadcast at a certain time of day, on a particular channel and within a certain type of programme, or indeed whether it should be broadcast at all.
p24 TASTE AND DECENCY
Challenging or deliberately flouting the boundaries of taste in drama and comedy is a time-honoured tradition going back to Shakespeare, Chaucer and beyond. The tradition has a rightful place in broadcasting. Comedy has a special freedom but this does not give unlimited licence to be crude or cruel, or to humiliate individuals or groups gratuitously.
Matters of taste shift quite quickly and vary from one age or social group to another. They often relate to subjects which can cause embarrassment or upset. Matters of decency, however, are based on deeper, more fundamental values and emotions: the respect owed to the bereaved at funerals is one example. Offence to decency has the potential to cause more significant difficulty, and should thus be given the highest priority when considering the suitability of items for broadcast.
Research has indicated that audiences consider the use of bad language to be unacceptable in certain circumstances and its repetitive use was disliked by 86% of respondents. Significantly, the level of protest is reduced when the audience accepts the relevance of the language used to the situation portrayed. In recent research, 63% of those questioned favoured the use of a later transmission time rather than editing, particularly for films containing bad language.
p26 The Commission does not lay down rigid rules or a list of banned words. Common sense and a study of the relevant research should indicate where the areas of difficulty lie. However, words and phrases which have sexual origins or applications cause particular offence. For example, the Commission would expect the abusive use of
any of the synonyms for the female genitalia to have been referred to the most senior levels of management.
The Commission considers there is hardly ever any justification for the use on television of offensive language before the Watershed. This rule should be broken very rarely and never without discussion at the most senior levels within the broadcasting organisations.
Offences against Religious Sensibilities
The casual use of names, words or symbols regarded as sacred by different sets of believers can cause hurt as well as offence. People of all faiths are distressed by affronts to their sacred words. This should not be underestimated. For example, while many may not themselves be offended, a majority would not wish to cause offence to others by the casual use of the Christian holy names as expletives. There is particular offence taken by the linking of the names with sexual swear words. Often, the offence is not intended, but arises from an unawareness of the weight attached to words or symbols which have religious connotations for some of the audience.
Drugs provide a legitimate subject matter for both factual and fictional programmes, but nothing should be done to promote their irresponsible or illegal use.
Alcohol and Smoking
Given the health and other risks, neither smoking nor the abuse of alcohol should be glamorised, especially in programmes directed mainly towards the young.
People with Disabilities or Mental Health Problems
Over six million people in the UK have some form of physical disability or mental health problem. Programmes should seek to avoid anything which might encourage prejudice.
Almost invariably, the use of derogatory terms in speaking of men and women from particular ethnic backgrounds and nations gives offence and should be avoided unless the context warrants it. Great distinctions exist between many people within single countries, let alone whole continents, and a broad community of interest or a common identity cannot always be assumed. The presentation of minority groups as an undifferentiated mass, rather than a collection of individuals with limited interest in common, should be discouraged.
Programmes should neither glamorise nor condone criminals or their actions as crime is rarely without victims.
p30 PORTRAYAL OF VIOLENCE
There are some significant concerns about the portrayal of violence which broadcasters need to take into consideration. These include the fear that repeated exposure to violence desensitises audiences, making them apathetic towards increases in actual violence or indifferent to the plight of victims or the copycat effect - outbreaks of violence similar to those shown on the screen - which could be a consequence of showing it in detail. Viewers might identify screen violence with the reality of their own lives and become reasonably fearful, for instance, being scared to go out at night alone. It could also encourage the view that violence is acceptable as the means of resolving disputes.
In scheduling a programme containing violence, especially where it is violence with which viewers may identify closely, broadcasters should consider the programmes placed each side of it, as well as the time of transmission. A sequence of programmes containing violence can rarely be justified.
p32 Violence in Drama
Violence is a legitimate ingredient of drama, but should seldom be an end in itself. The context of the violence, and the audience's ability to appreciate the conventions within which the drama is being played out, will be key. Research indicates that respondents are most shocked when violence occurs in locations that seem familiar to them, and with which they can identify, particularly, if that violence 'erupts' and cannot be foreseen. Violence in situations which are more distant, and which are further from their own reality, are less likely to impact; whereas the apparently gratuitous intrusion of violence into locations regarded as places of safety can be deeply shocking.
p33 But the serious consequences of violence should not be glossed over - in real life a blow to the head which fells a man is unlikely to be cured by a ritual head-shaking as the victim swiftly gets to his feet.
On television the use of weapons, particularly knives or other objects readily available in the home, should be considered carefully. Care should also be taken not to give detailed instructions on how to make explosives.
Explicit hanging scenes should never be shown before or close to the Watershed; storylines involving the detailed depiction of suicide should be considered at senior levels within the broadcasting organisation.
p35 PORTRAYAL OF SEXUAL CONDUCT
Research shows that audiences in Britain have generally become more liberal and relaxed about the portrayal of sex, but broadcasters cannot assume a universal climate of tolerance towards sexually explicit material. Offence may be given by making public and explicit what many people regard as private and exclusive.
Audiences should not be reduced to voyeurs, nor the participants to objects. The youth and physical attractiveness of the participants are no justification for explicitness.
Broadcasters must ensure that actual sexual intercourse is not transmitted. The broadcast of sexually explicit scenes before the Watershed should always be a matter for judgment at the most senior levels within the broadcasting organisations.
Explicit sexual acts between adults and children should not be transmitted.
Explicit sexual conduct between humans and animals should never be shown and should be referred to in programmes only after consultations at a senior level.
There is now a greater relaxation about the human body. The appearance of the nude human body can have a justifiable and powerful dramatic effect and be a legitimate element in a programme, provided it does not exploit the nude person. But it can also be disturbing and cause offence, especially where it appears that there is no clear editorial rationale. The justification must come from the intention and the merit of the individual programme itself.
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