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FAQ's

Q. Is it only news programmes that have to be impartial?


A. No. Any programme concerning matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy must be duly impartial, either impartial itself, or the broadcaster must seek to achieve impartiality in some other way, for example by broadcasting another programme in which balancing views and opinions are expressed.

Q. On what subjects does a programme need to be impartial?


A. It is impossible to give an exhaustive list but matters of political and/or industrial controversy, or relating to current public policy would include the following: government domestic and foreign policy and all that entails, for example the introduction of new laws, reforms, war, military action, defence, aid, sanctions, the economy, health, education, security, immigration, finance; party politics; industrial action, strikes, factory closures. If the subject matter can be broadly termed 'current affairs' and on which there exist opposing viewpoints, it is likely to be caught.

Q. What is a personal view programme?


A. A 'personal view programme' is just that: a programme in which the personal views or perspectives of an individual or group of individuals are propounded. Such programmes must be labelled as being a 'personal view' so viewers are clear about what they are watching. The Code acknowledges that personal view programmes can "... range from the outright expression of highly partial views, for example, by a person who is a member of a lobby group and is campaigning on the subject, to the considered "authored" opinion of a journalist, commentator or academic, with professional expertise or a specialism in an area which enables her or him to express opinions which are not necessarily mainstream". Simply labelling a programme as 'personal view' does not mean that broadcasters can dispense with ensuring impartiality, where it is required. Alternative viewpoints must still adequately be represented in the programme, or in a series of programmes taken as a whole.

Q. Why do we have to be balanced when the newspapers don't?


A. Television is much more closely regulated than the print media. Impartiality provisions are imposed on television output by an act of Parliament and compliance with those provisions is an important condition of all broadcasters' licences.

Q. Can't we achieve balance in some later programme?


A. Impartiality may be achieved by broadcasting one or more later programmes, which contain balancing arguments on a particular subject, so that, taken as a whole, the broadcaster's output is duly impartial regardless of views expressed on other channels or elsewhere in the media. This needs careful thought and planning. Wherever this is intended the commissioning editor and programme-makers should seek early advice from the programme lawyer.