Programme-makers, when considering whether or not a potentially defamatory statement or sequence can remain in a programme, should have regard to the following:
- the nature and seriousness of the allegations/criticism. Obviously, the more serious the allegation, the more stringent proof is likely to be required;
- what steps have been taken to verify that the allegations are true and what evidence there is to prove truth;
- who the subject of the allegations is and whether he/she/it would be likely to object to the remark, or be likely to sue;
- whether the subject of the allegations/criticism has been contacted and been given an appropriate opportunity to respond; and whether their side of the story has been fairly reflected within the programme.
- whether the allegations/criticism have been published before. If so, where have they been published and with what consequences, if any? For example, perhaps the story is old news, has been in the newspapers before, or perhaps the subject has admitted the allegation.
Finally, it is worth remembering that libel proceedings are extremely time-consuming and costly to fight. All potentially defamatory statements must be checked for accuracy very carefully.
Legal advice should be sought at the earliest opportunity.