Producers Handbook

Material Likely to Encourage or Incite Crime or Lead to Disorder

  • Material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder must not be included in programmes.
  • Ofcom will treat any breach of this Rule extremely seriously.
  • This applies to all crime – all criminal law offences punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

“Material” may include:

  • Content which directly or indirectly amounts to a call to criminal action or disorder;
  • Material promoting or encouraging engagement in terrorism or other forms of criminal activity or lead to disorder; and/or
  • Hate speech which is likely to encourage criminal activity or lead to disorder.

 "Disorder" relates to the criminal offence of ‘civil disorder', but also more generic acts that might lead to or provoke the commission of an offence.


  • Whether material is "likely" to encourage or incite crime or lead to disorder will depend on a number of factors. Merely filming and broadcasting criminal activity will not generally, in itself, amount to encouragement or incitement to commit that offence. However, featuring criminal activity and presenting it in a way which arguably glorifies or glamorises it, or which fails to show the negative consequences, for both victim and perpetrator, may be problematic. Direct calls or deliberate provocation to viewers to commit crimes which are left unchallenged in the programme, for example giving air time to a religious extremist actively calling for violent acts to be carried out against members of other faiths, would almost certainly be likely to breach this rule and potentially the criminal law.
  • Where criminal activity is featured in programmes, it should normally be made clear that the activity in question is indeed criminal, if it is not obvious, in case some viewers mistakenly believe such behaviour is legal and, therefore, acceptable.
  • In relation to certain types of crime featured in programmes, it may be appropriate to ensure that the negative consequences of the criminal activity are included (over and above the fact that it's an offence) if there is a risk that the activity might appear glamorous or problem free, for example drug abuse.

In relation to hijacking and kidnapping specifically, broadcasters must be careful not to broadcast material that could endanger lives or prejudice the success of attempts to deal with the situation.

Material containing hate speech, abusive or derogatory treatment

In addition, the following rules apply to protect the public from the inclusion of offensive and harmful material: 

  • Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television and radio programmes except where it is justified by the context.
  • Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television and radio services except where it is justified by the context.

“Hate speech” is defined as “all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance on the grounds of disability, ethnicity, gender, gender reassignment, nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation.”

Significant or key contextual factors under Rules 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 may include but are not limited to:

  • the genre and editorial content or purpose of the programme; 
  • the extent to which sufficient challenge is provided;
  • the status or position of anyone featured; and
  • viewer expectation.

It should be noted that:

  • The Code does not prohibit particular people or organisations from appearing on television just because their views or actions have the potential to cause offence, as long as their views/actions are appropriately challenged and/or placed in context.
  • Programming, including, drama, comedy and satire, may include harmful or offensive material, where there is sufficient editorial justification in keeping with viewer expectations provided there is sufficient context.
  • In assessing the likely effect on viewers, Ofcom will give particular consideration to the content of statements, how they were made, and whether the material contained any direct or indirect calls to action.

Rules 3.2 and 3.3 should be read in conjunction with Rule 2.1 (generally accepted standards must be applied to the contents of television services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/or offensive material), Rule 2.4 (programmes must not include material which condones or glamorises violent, dangerous, or seriously antisocial behaviour), and Rule 4.2 (religious views should not be subject to abusive treatment). Relevant legislation such as section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, section 319(2) (f) of the Communications Act 2003 and sections 22 and 29F of the Public Order Act 1986 should also be considered.


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