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May 25, 2005

New Ofcom Broadcasting Code

Category: News

Legacy codes consolidated into unified code


Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has today published its new Broadcasting Code. The Code, which comes into force on 25 July 2005, covers standards in programmes, sponsorship, fairness and privacy across radio and television.


The single, simplified Code – issued under s.319 Communications Act 2003 and s.107 Broadcasting Act 1996 – replaces the six codes inherited from the former broadcasting regulators (BSC, Radio Authority etc.) The Code is a “relevant privacy code” to which the Court must have “particular regard” under s.12(4) Human Rights Act when considering claims that involve freedom of expression. 


Key points include:


Freedom of expression



  • Ofcom has stated that it believes the Code will allow broadcasters more creative freedom whilst giving audiences greater scope to exercise informed choice through the provision of information about what is to be broadcast. The code expressly recognises – for the first time – the importance of “context”. 
  • The Code provides for broadcasters to transmit challenging material, even that which may be considered offensive by some, provided it is editorially justified and the audience is given appropriate information.

Commercial references and other matters



  • In the area of sponsorship and commercial references, Ofcom has deregulated significantly whilst ensuring at the same time that the overriding principle of editorial independence is maintained. 
  • The ban on product placement will remain but Ofcom – acknowledging that advertising is a key source of funding for commercial broadcasters – will consult on product placement in the context of a wider assessment of the broadcast advertising market later in the year.

Protecting the Under 18s



  • This new section lays greater emphasis on rules to safeguard the under 18s, and in particular children (defined in the Code as the under 15s) who are too young to exercise fully informed choices for themselves.
  • Children must be protected by appropriate scheduling – with the use of, for instance, the watershed – from material that is unsuitable for them.

In formulating the new Code Ofcom received more than 900 responses to its public consultation. Ofcom Chief Executive Stephen Carter said: “The new Code sets out clear and simple rules which remove unnecessary intervention, extend choice for audiences and allow creative freedom for broadcasters.”


Richard Hooper, Ofcom Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the Content Board, said: “Both broadcasters and audiences told us of the need for clarity and flexibility in how we approach these rules. We believe the new Code meets those requirements.”


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