Ofcom’s new measures to protect programme participants

Posted: April 27, 2021

Ofcom has updated its guidance on Section Seven of the Broadcasting Code[1] to help broadcasters comply with new measures to protect people who take part in TV and radio programmes. 

The measures, which came into effect on 5 April 2021, are aimed at ensuring that broadcasters take “due care” of people at risk of significant harm as a result of taking part, especially contributors not used to being in the public eye and vulnerable people.  The updated guidance includes a “risk matrix” to help with assessing and managing the level of care required in different types of programmes.

Comment

The changes form part of Ofcom’s response to, as described in its statement[2] published in December 2020, “a steady rise in complaints about the mental health and wellbeing of programme participants, reflecting society’s growing openness and concern about these issues”.

Ofcom’s proposals to introduce further protections for participants in programmes (on which it consulted in 2019, and again in 2020) were broadly supported by broadcasters.  Many of them had already put their own processes in place following several high-profile incidents in which contributors to programmes suffered mentally as a result of taking part in programmes, and in some cases with tragic consequences. 

Still, Ofcom’s guidance provides welcome clarity on what it expects from its licensees.  It is clear that, even where a production is not considered particularly high-risk, programme makers are expected to maintain a watchful eye over contributors.  They should check for any signs of stress or anxiety and not cut contributors adrift after production, but provide them with a production contact and consider carefully whether any ongoing support is required.

Eleanor Steyn, Partner, Simkins LLP

To read the full article, click here.  Written for Entertainment Law Review.


[1] https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/24713/section7.pdf.

[2] https://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations-and-statements/category-2/protecting-tv-radio-participants.