Producers Handbook

Suffering & Distress

Emergencies, Accidents & Personal Tragedy

When reporting on emergencies, accidents and/or personal tragedy or making references to such events within programmes, the public interest in full, open and accurate reporting and the right to freedom of expression must be carefully balanced with the need to be compassionate and the privacy rights of those involved, so as to avoid any unwarranted infringement of privacy or unjustified offence.

People caught up in such events, for example victims, should only be shown where there is strong editorial justification and broadcast is in the public interest, or those filmed have consented to be filmed for broadcast.

People in distress, for example victims or the grieving relatives of victims, should not be placed under any pressure to be interviewed or to be filmed. It may be appropriate to make any requests for interviews through an intermediary, for example a relative, friend or advisor.

Showing people dying, being killed or murdered, particularly the point of death, will require exceptional justification and must be justified editorially, by the public interest and, in relation to the potential effect on viewers, by the context. 

Where people have died or are the victims of accident or violent crime, programmes should be careful not to reveal their identity, unless and until it is clear that their next of kin have been informed. Any exception to this rule must be justified by the public interest or otherwise for example if immediate publication of the deceased's identity might help in the apprehension of a criminal.


Revisiting Past Events

When making and broadcasting programmes, including dramatisations, that concern real past events that have involved trauma to individuals, for example natural disaster, accident, human violence, crime, programme-makers and broadcasters should always carefully consider the likely impact on those involved, for example any victims or their close relatives.

Where reasonably practicable, those whose experience is to feature, or their close family, should normally be informed of the plans to make such a programme, including when it will be broadcast, even where the events or material to be broadcast are in the public domain and are widely known and where victims are not named but would be recognisable from the events.

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