The Role of Ofcom

Channel 4 is directly accountable to Ofcom under its licence to broadcast for the content of its programmes (including programme trails). In turn, independent production companies and programme-makers have contractual obligations to comply with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and the Handbook and to alert commissioning editors to potential issues.

Where Channel 4 content requires defending from legal and/or regulatory complaint, Channel 4 will normally require the full assistance and co-operation of the programme-making team. A serious failure in compliance can result in serious consequences - statutory sanctions which can be highly damaging both to Channel 4 and its programme-makers' reputation (see Ofcom Broadcasting Code section of the Handbook).


Ofcom Standards Complaints

If a 'standards complaint' (complaints concerning sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9 of the Ofcom Code) is made to Ofcom about a Channel 4 programme or trail, Ofcom may contact the Channel for an explanation of how the material complies with the Ofcom Code. This may relate to the programme's or trail's scheduling as well as its content and any warnings that did or did not precede it.

In most cases, a member of the legal & compliance department will draft the response to Ofcom with input from the commissioning editor (or marketing and 4creative, if a trail) and the programme-makers. However, the commissioning editor (or marketing and 4creative, if a trail) must be able to provide a defence of editorial or creative decisions taken and assist in preparing the response.


Ofcom Fairness and/or Privacy Complaints

A programme contributor (which can include a person or a company) or a person/company with a "direct interest" in the subject matter of a programme may make a 'fairness and/or privacy complaint' to Ofcom alleging unfair treatment and/or unwarranted infringement of privacy. Responses to fairness and/or privacy complaints generally entail a significant amount of work and the programme lawyer is likely to require the full co-operation and assistance of the programme-makers and commissioning editor in compiling Channel 4's responses, and they may also be required to attend an Ofcom hearing.