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Protecting Under 18s

[See Section 1 of the Code]

The Code places particular emphasis and importance on protecting under 18s. Below is a summary of the relevant rules, some of which are considered in more detail later in the chapter. Key amongst these is the application of the 9pm watershed.

Summary of Rules to Protect Under 18s


Material that might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of people under 18 must not be broadcast.


This prohibits the broadcast of the most potentially harmful and offensive material at any time, for example very explicit sexual practices, obscene material, very graphic violence.


Broadcasters must take all reasonable precautions to protect people under 18.


This reflects the importance given to protecting non-adult viewers, a reminder to broadcasters that they must always consider carefully the potential effect of their programming on younger viewers.


Programmes should be scheduled appropriately.


Programming must be appropriately scheduled in order to protect children, who are defined in the Code as those under 15 years of age.


For more on 'appropriate scheduling' see 'Scheduling & the Watershed'.

Alcohol, smoking and drugs


These must not be featured in children's programmes without strong editorial justification. In other programmes before the watershed, they should generally be avoided and should not be condoned or glamorised unless there is editorial justification. In programmes likely to be seen widely by under 18s at any time, alcohol, smoking and drugs should not be condoned, encouraged or glamorised unless there is editorial justification.

Violence and dangerous behaviour


Violence must be limited appropriately before the watershed. If it is easily imitable and potentially harmful or dangerous, it must not be included in children's programmes unless there is strong editorial justification and an appropriate warning is included. In other programmes before the watershed, such behaviour must not be included unless there is editorial justification. Similar rules apply to dangerous behaviour that is easily imitable and potentially harmful. For further explanation see 'Violence and Dangerous Behaviour'.

Offensive language


The most offensive language for example "cunt", "motherfucker", "fuck" or derivatives of these words must never be included in programmes (including in written form) before the watershed. Other potentially offensive language and gestures (for example the 'V' sign) must always be justifiable by the context. However, children's programmes should not include offensive language except in the most exceptional circumstances. For further explanation see 'Offensive Language'.

Sex and nudity


Representations of sexual intercourse should not be included before the watershed unless there is a serious educational purpose. Any other portrayal of sexual behaviour or discussion about sex before the watershed should be editorially justified and appropriately limited and inexplicit. Nudity before the watershed must be justified by the context. For further explanation see 'Sex and Nudity'.

Exorcism, the occult and the paranormal


Demonstrations of these practices must not be shown before the watershed. Paranormal practices which are for entertainment purposes, as opposed to those which purport to be real, can be shown before the watershed but not when significant numbers of children are likely to be watching. These rules don't apply to drama, film and comedy. For further explanation see 'Programmes Including Exorcism, the Occult and the Paranormal'.

Acquired films


There are specific rules relating to the scheduling of films that have been classified (or refused classification) by the British Board of Film Classification. For further explanation see 'Acquired Material'.

Under 18s involved in legal proceedings


Where programmes make references, whether directly or indirectly, to legal proceedings involving people under 18 and there are statutory or other legal restrictions preventing their identification, broadcasters must ensure that they do not inadvertently, or otherwise, give clues which may lead to their identification.


In addition, when referring to pre-trial investigations into alleged criminal offences, broadcasters must pay particular regard to any potentially vulnerable under 18s that may be involved, before a decision is made to identify them or to divulge certain details about them. This applies not only to defendants (those accused of crimes) and potential defendants but also to victims and potential witnesses.

Under 18s in Programmes


Due care must be taken over the physical and emotional welfare and dignity of people under 18 taking part in programmes, irrespective of their parents' consent.


People under 18 should not be caused unnecessary distress or anxiety by their involvement in programmes or by their broadcast.


Prizes in children's competitions must be appropriate to the age range of both the target audience and participants.


See 'Working and Filming with Under 18s Guidelines'.

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