Producers Handbook

Election Guidelines

Guidelines for Programmes Broadcast in the run up to and during the Elections


The rules set out in Section 6 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code (“the Code”) governing the special impartiality requirements take effect during an Election Period. An Election Period can be for a general election, parliamentary by-election, Scottish Parliament elections, National Assembly of Wales elections, local government elections, mayoral elections, Police and Crime Commissioner election, and elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly and the London Assembly. The same rules also apply when a referendum is called. The timing for when the Election Periods for the above forms of election start and finish are set out in the Code. Specific dates and any specific rules for each Election Period are notified by the Legal & Compliance department to all Commissioning Editors. If your programme includes political issues or contributors connected to interested parties, and is due to be broadcast, or any press and publicity is due to be sent out during an Election Period, you should contact your programme lawyer for further advice.

Set out below is a summary of the main rules in Section 6, which potentially cover all factual and entertainment programmes, whether political or non-political, which are broadcast during the Election Period.

During the Election Period any coverage of the Election will be closely scrutinised, it is therefore essential that all programme makers and Channel 4 editorial staff read Section 6 and ensure that you are aware of the rules which may impact on your programmes (including repeats on Channel 4 and broadcasts on E4, More4 and the +1 channels). If you need advice or guidance on the rules, please contact the Legal and Compliance Department.



Due impartiality must be maintained across all programmes giving coverage to the Election or election issues during the Election Period. While the time devoted to all parties and candidates during the Election Period need not be equal, election programming during the Election Period must give due weight to the coverage of the parties and independent candidates.

In determining the appropriate level of coverage to be given to the parties and independent candidates, we must take into account evidence of past electoral support and/or current support. Please contact the Legal and Compliance department for advice on evidence of past electoral support and current support and the coverage to be given to parties and independent candidates.

In addition, appropriate coverage should be given to parties and independent candidates with significant views and perspectives, which should be represented.

All discussions and analysis of Election and referendum issues must finish when the polls open.

The results of any opinion poll commissioned or undertaken on the day of polling cannot be published until after the polls close at 10pm that night.


Appearance by Candidates in Programmes

There are strict rules governing the appearance of candidates in any programme during the Election Period. The names of those candidates and parties standing will not be formally confirmed until after the close of nominations.

Before that time, you must ensure that you check that individuals appearing in programmes, whether as contributors, presenters or interviewers, are not planning to run as prospective candidates.

Appearances by candidates in any type of programme as news presenters, interviewers or presenters of any type of programme should cease from the start of the Election Period until close of polls.

Appearances by candidates in non-political programmes, which were planned or scheduled before the Election Period begins may continue but no new appearances should be arranged and broadcast from the start of the Election Period until after the polls close.

Appearance by candidates in Constituency Reports or Debates

There are special rules governing the appearance of candidates in programmes where they take part in a report or debate focussing on their particular constituency (‘Constituency Report or Debate’).

If any candidate takes part in an item about his or her constituency or electoral area, all candidates within the constituency or electoral area, who represent parties with previous significant electoral support or where there is evidence of significant current support, must be offered the opportunity to take part. This also applies to independent candidates.

If a candidate refuses or is unable to take part, the item can still go ahead and be broadcast.

After the close of nominations all constituency or electoral area reports or discussions must include a list of all candidates standing, giving first names, surnames and the name of the party they represent, or, if they are standing independently, the fact that they are an independent candidate. This must be conveyed in sound and/or vision.

Where a candidate is taking part in a programme on any matter broadcast after the election has been called, she/he must not be given the opportunity to make constituency points, or electoral area points about the constituency or electoral area in which she/he is standing, when no other candidates will be given a similar opportunity.

Please contact the Legal and Compliance Department for advice if you intend to include a candidate in any items.


Due Impartiality

The normal due impartiality rules set out in Section 5 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code apply as always. In particular, the rules relating to matters of major political or industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy apply to the coverage of the elections and policies under discussion or already agreed by a local, regional or national government or public body.


Party Election Broadcasts

Channel 4 is not required to carry Party Election Broadcasts in relation to these elections. Any enquiries from political parties or candidates should be directed to the Legal & Compliance and News & Current Affairs departments. 

The Party Political Slots series will not be scheduled during the Election Period.


Video on Demand and Web Content

The above rules and guidance do not apply to our video on demand service.

Although the Code provisions do not extend to our video on demand and online coverage, the Channel will ensure that its video on demand and online coverage of the Elections is consistent in terms of fairness and balance.

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