New provisions of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and Guidance apply to all TV programmes that begin production on or after Monday 5 April 2021. The changes have the following objectives;
• to make sure the welfare of people who take part in television and radio programmes is protected; and
• to make sure audiences are protected from uncontextualised offence that can arise from seeing or hearing vulnerable participants in programmes whose welfare they think might not have been protected.
Channel 4 takes the duty of care towards its contributors (which includes contributors, presenters, on-screen talent and production staff) very seriously, and these guidelines read in conjunction with the relevant sections of the Ofcom Code and Guidance should be applied to all Channel 4 content including original and branded content for social media platforms.
Channel 4 adopts a bespoke approach to duty of care. From the very outset content makers should think carefully about potential duty of care considerations including whether a duty of care risk assessment document/protocol is required. If so, a risk assessment document/protocol that is specific and tailored for the content they are making should be prepared at the earliest stage of production. Please remember that duty of care considerations should evolve with the production and be continuously reassessed as production continues and changes.
At the point of commission, a discussion should be had with the Commissioning Editor and, if necessary, Channel 4’s Programme Lawyer/Compliance Advisor to discuss any duty of care considerations and whether a duty of care risk assessment document/protocol is required.
If a duty of care risk assessment document/protocol is required, it should be submitted and discussed with the Commissioning Editor and Channel 4’s Programme Lawyer/Compliance Advisor to ensure that contributor care has been properly considered and addressed.
Any risk assessment must identify and assess risks at the outset, in order to determine whether a programme is high / medium / low risk and include what steps (if any) will be in place to mitigate potential risks to contributors before, during and after production.
Content makers may wish to use Ofcom’s suggested risk matrix (see below), as a tool for identifying, assessing, and managing potential risks to contributors in programmes in addition to considering the following points:
• Guidelines and procedures: In some cases, content makers may need to create a separate duty of care protocol, or include a duty of care section within an overarching production protocol which sets out the key considerations for working with contributors in particular programmes. The duty of care protocol and/or relevant section of the production protocol should be submitted and discussed with the Commissioning Editor and Channel 4’s Programme Lawyer/Compliance Advisor.
• Record keeping: Making and retaining records, contemporaneous notes, and/or any other documentation can help demonstrate what information and support was offered and provided to a contributor during production.
• Experts: Independent expert advice may need to be sought from an appropriately qualified specialist, such as to assess potential vulnerabilities of contributors. Depending on the nature of the production, different specialists may be required at different stages.
• Steps to manage the welfare of contributors: Where appropriate and possible and with regard to staff welfare, contributors could be given a nominated single point of contact within the production team with whom they can liaise throughout and after the production process. Content makers should be flexible as to the type of support a contributor might reasonably require or request before, during and/or after production.
Content makers must provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion of potentially harmful or offensive material. This can include the treatment of people who take part in a programme especially if the viewer is concerned that they appear to have been put at risk of significant harm.
This means ensuring that material which may cause offence is justified by the context. If necessary, appropriate information or context should be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising potential viewer concerns. This may require adding footage that provides context, voice over, on-air pre-transmission warnings and/or support information.
Ofcom - Risk matrix example
Please click here to view Ofcom's Risk matrix example, which can be found on pages 6-10 of the link.
For further detail on the changes to the Ofcom code and Channel 4 guidelines, please also see 'Fairness', 'Fairness & Contributors', 'Protecting under 18s and Harm & Offence', 'Factual Programme Guidelines' and 'Working & Filming with under 18's Guidelines'.