Producers Handbook

Section 10 Contempt of Court Act 1981

Section 10 provides some protection for journalists and their sources. It states that no court shall require anyone to disclose a source of information unless necessary in the interests of justice, national security or the prevention of disorder or crime. Whether any particular circumstances warrant disclosure is ultimately for the court to decide, taking into consideration the Human Rights Act 1998 and, in particular, the right to freedom of expression. The courts have held that disclosure orders should be made only in exceptional circumstances and where disclosure is justified by an overriding public interest.

If any undertaking is given to a source by programme-maker, once it appears that such an undertaking may also become binding on Channel 4, programme-makers must immediately notify the commissioning editor who will consult with the programme lawyer and, if necessary, refer the matter up in accordance with Channel 4's internal compliance procedures. See 'Issues Requiring Reference-up' and 'Areas of Potential Concern where Specific Procedures Apply'.

Where there is the possibility that any undertaking may conflict with the law, for example, an unqualified undertaking of anonymity has been given to a source by a journalist, this must be referred up to the chief executives as the editor-in-chief will refer the matter to the board. Generally, programme makers and journalists should not make such unqualified undertakings before consulting and seeking the approval of the broadcaster.

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