ETHICS AND REGULATION Ofcom, the PCC code and the BBC Guidelines
CHILDREN’S PRIVACY AND WELFARE • Both the PCC and Ofcom Codes emphasise the privacy of children. This includes interviewing and filming/photographing them, protects them at school and protects the children of the famous. • There are public interests defences – as there are with many of these ethical areas – but they are fairly strictly applied. • A good case to remember and quote is “Mrs Laura Gaddis against the Hamilton Advertiser”. The PCC rules against the paper when its website ran footage of a classroom disturbance. There was public interest in the uproar it said - but not in IDing the children.
CHILDREN’S PRIVACY AND WELFARE • Ofcom says broadcasters should pay special attention to the privacy of those under 16. • Consent must be obtained from parents/guardians before using them in programmes or questioning them about private matters. This includes vulnerable people such as those with mental illness or dementia or with learning difficulties. • However – see Ofcom Bulletin 116 where public interest trumped the privacy of a very young child.
“NO COMMENT” • Clause 4 of the PCC Code says when a person has “no comment” we shouldn’t engage in intimidation or persistent pursuit or remain on their property. • Ofcom in Section 8.7 says where a person’s privacy is being infringed and they ask the broadcaster to stop, the broadcaster should do so - unless “warranted”. • As with PCC public interest defences “warranted” is defined as where the public interest – detecting crime for instance – outweighs the right to privacy.
DOORSTEPPING • Ofcom’s section 8.11 says doorstepping should only take place where a request for interview has been refused or there’s reason to believe investigation will be frustrated if the subject is approached openly. • It doesn’t apply to approaching people in the news in public places or to vox-pops.
COVERT FILMING/RECORDING • Clause 10 of the PCC Code says we should not obtain or publish material gained by hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices or by intercepting calls, e-mails,etc. • Ofcom says we can record phone calls under certain circumstances but surreptitious filming or recording will only be warranted if: there’s prima facie evidence of public interest, we suspect there’s more material to be obtained and it’s necessary for the credibility of the programme. • It should only be broadcast if “warranted” – see above.
DECEPTION AND SUBTERFUGE • Clause 10 of the PCC Code says these things need particular justification to be ethical – and so do the public interest exceptions. • Ofcom says these things may be warranted in the public interest and when the material cannot reasonable be obtained by other means. • The BBC Editorial Guidelines say very similar things.
IMPARTIALITY • Note – this is one of the areas in which the BBC is not subject to Ofcom. Its guidance is very similar. • Ofcom Section 5 says broadcasters must exercise 2due impartiality” and guard against undue prominence of views or opinions. (See your notes and look also at Section 5.9 – 5.13 regarding views expressed by staff.) • You need to be aware, in general terms of the Ofcom adjudication against Bloomberg TV in 2005 when it breached impartiality guidelines. A good one to quote in the exam. • Ofcom contrasts considerably with the PCC code in this area – it simply says the Press, while free to be partisan, must distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact.