Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Media: Ofcom & the ITC programme code

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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The portrayal of any dangerous or harmful behaviour easily imitated by children
    should be avoided, especially before the watershed, and must be excluded entirely in
    children’s programmes. This applies especially to the use, in a manner likely to cause
    serious injury, of knives and other offensive weapons, articles or substances
  • 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”.
  • Certification: No ‘12’ rated version should normally start before 8pm on any service.
  • No ‘15’ rated version should normally start before 9pm (or 8pm on premium
    rate subscription services, contents permitting).
  • 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.
  • No ‘R18’ version should be transmitted at any time.
  • No version refused a BBFC certification should be transmitted at any time.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bad language must be defensible in terms of context and scheduling with warnings where appropriate.
  • 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.
  • Violence. 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. Different types of violence are:
  • Offensive violence
  • Psychological Harm to Young and Vulnerable Viewers
  • Imitable violence
  • Cumulative effects of violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Suicide: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.
  • Violence in News and other Programmes: News and current affairs programmes are subject, like any other programming, to the requirements of Family Viewing Policy.
  • 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.
  • Ethnic Minorities-No programme should be transmitted which is intended to stir up racial hatred.
  • People with disabilities - There is a danger of offence in the use of humour based on physical, mental or sensory disability, even where no malice is present.

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