If the broadcast of a television programme is said to be "in the public interest" it means that it serves beneficially the well-being or interests of the public or society generally. There is no exhaustive definition of what constitutes the public interest, but it is generally accepted to include the following:
- Exposing or detecting crime, corruption, antisocial behaviour or injustice;
- Exposing lies, hypocrisy or misleading claims made by individuals or organisations;
- Protecting public health or safety;
- Disclosing incompetence, negligence or dereliction of duty, that affects others;
- Exposing dangerous or exploitative behaviour that could harm others.
Any act that relies for its justification on the public interest should be proportionate to the interest served - that is in relation to privacy, the more significant the infringement, the greater the public interest will need to be in order to justify it.
Privacy issues (as with issues of fairness) can roughly be divided into those relating to individuals or organisations actually taking part or featured in programmes - "contributors"; and those not taking part but who are otherwise referred to - "non-contributors".