Ofcom has today issued new guidance to broadcasters to ensure they protect the welfare of children taking part in TV and radio programmes.
The protection of under-18s is a fundamental concern for Ofcom. Today’s guidance sets out the steps broadcasters should take to protect children in programmes before, during, and after they are aired.
Broadcasters need to think carefully about factors that may affect a child’s welfare during programme making or as a result of appearing on TV or radio. Factors like age, maturity, the subject matter, as well as previous life experiences, can affect how they may respond to such exposure.
Today’s document updates Ofcom’s earlier work in this area, which focused on broadcasters putting the welfare of child participants at the heart of editorial and production decisions. This update is based on findings from subsequent investigations, expert input and feedback from industry.
The guidance, which builds on rules in Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code that sets standards for content on TV and radio, includes advice to broadcasters on:
Risk assessments - broadcasters should consider conducting thorough and ongoing risk assessments, both of risks to the child’s health and safety and to their emotional wellbeing.
Expert advice - broadcasters should consider whether it is appropriate to seek expert advice to determine the best interests of children who take part.
Best practice - the new guidance also explains the need in some cases for broadcasters to advise young participants and their families on any likely media and social media interest. It also sets out steps they should consider when helping participants and their families deal with any negative consequences, such as online bullying, after broadcast.
When children and young people participate in programmes, broadcasters should also consider what information may need to be given to viewers. This is because the level of care taken to protect under-18s is not always clear to the audience.
Tony Close, Ofcom Director of Content Standards, Licensing and Enforcement, said: “Ofcom takes the protection of children extremely seriously, whether they are viewers or listeners, or actively taking part in programmes.
“This guidance follows careful analysis of our past investigations and decisions. It’s an important step in protecting the physical and emotional welfare as well as the dignity of children who take part, or are involved, in TV and radio programmes.”
The guidance reflects findings from recent investigations, including: