Producers Handbook

Fictional Programmes

Fictional programmes can be defamatory if viewers reasonably understand references within them to be referring to real people (or organisations), even if the real person's name is not used and even if the programme is not intending to refer to a real person. For example, a fictional sitcom set in the House of Commons could potentially defame a real government minister if viewers were to identify a real person with the fictional character. The fact that the script writers had not intended for there to be such a connection would be irrelevant. The claimant in such an action would have to establish that he/she was identified in connection with the fictional character and that publication had caused serious harm or was likely to cause serious harm.

Where there is a risk that viewers may identify real people with fictional characters in drama, programmes normally carry a disclaimer informing viewers that the drama and all characters are entirely fictional.

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