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General Requirement

The Code contains the following rule:


"Any infringement of privacy in programmes, or in connection with obtaining material included in programmes, must be warranted"


Accordingly, broadcasters must be able to demonstrate why any infringement of privacy is justified. In most cases, such justification will either be that the individual has consented or that the public interest outweighs the privacy infringement.

Fairness and Privacy Complaints

Any individual (or organisation) who considers him/herself to have been the subject of unjust or unfair treatment or an unwarranted infringement of privacy may make a written 'fairness' and/or ‘privacy' complaint to Ofcom after a programme's broadcast. See 'Fairness'.


Defending these complaints is time-consuming and may involve disclosure to Ofcom of rushes, correspondence, emails and notes as well as preparation of a detailed response to all the points raised by a complainant. This will require cooperation between the broadcaster and programme-makers.


If Ofcom entertains a complaint of unfair treatment and/or an unwarranted invasion of privacy, the broadcaster will be given the opportunity to make written submissions in relation to the complaint. Ofcom then comes to a "preliminary view" on which both the complainant and the broadcaster are given an opportunity to make further written submissions. At this stage, Ofcom may decide to hold a hearing (but rarely does), for example if there is a significant dispute of fact between the parties. Ofcom then makes its final decision. If there is a hearing then at least one of the programme-makers will be expected to attend with the broadcasters' representatives.


Ofcom will normally publish its final adjudication on its website and, especially where a fairness complaint is upheld, it is also likely to direct the broadcaster to transmit on air and/or publish a summary of its Adjudication. In the case of a serious breach, a statutory sanction may be considered and imposed. The imposition of a sanction and the adverse press that it creates damages the reputation of both the broadcaster and the programme-makers.