Protecting Under 18s and Harm and Offence

Key Points

  • Under 18s must be protected from potentially harmful and offensive material. One of the main ways of achieving this is through the appropriate scheduling of programmes.
  • The watershed is 9 pm. Nothing unsuitable for children should, in general, be shown before 9pm or after 5.30 am. After 9 pm, there should then be a gradual transition to more adult material, not an abrupt change.
  • Potentially harmful or offensive material includes strong language, violence, and sexual behaviour. Its inclusion must be justified editorially and by the context.
  • Viewers should be forewarned of potentially harmful or offensive material so they can make their own informed choices about what they and their children watch. This usually requires clear on-air pre-transmission warnings.
  • Programmes must be true, accurate and not materially misleading.
  • Programmes should not condone or glamorise violent, dangerous or seriously anti-social behaviour, especially where it is likely to encourage others to copy such behaviour.
  • Any discriminatory treatment or language for example on grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion, beliefs and sexuality must be justified by the context. Nothing transmitted should be intended or likely to stir up racial hatred.
  • Programmes should show respect for human dignity. In news and factual programmes, showing people in distress and in sensitive situations requires clear editorial justification. In entertainment programmes, consideration must be given to humour based on the plight or misfortune of real-life individuals, which again must be justifiable editorially and by the context.
  • There are specific rules regarding programmes including exorcism, the occult and the paranormal.