As part of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code (“the Code”), broadcasters are required to ensure that anyone under the age of 18 who participates in programmes is not caused unnecessary physical or emotional distress during or as a result of their participation and that due care is taken over the welfare of that person.
Specifically, Rules 1.26 and 1.27 of the Code state:
Rule 1.26: Due care must be taken over the physical and emotional welfare and the dignity of people under eighteen who take part or are otherwise involved in programmes. This is irrespective of any consent given by the participant or by a parent, guardian or other person over the age of eighteen in loco parentis.
Rule 1.27: People under eighteen must not be caused unnecessary distress or anxiety by their involvement in programmes or by the broadcast of those programmes.
Following an increasing trend in the broadcast of non-fiction programmes involving children and a number of complaints related to children appearing in programmes, Ofcom undertook to review the issues involved in the participation of children in programmes. Ofcom also considered the need for guidance to accompany Rules 1.26 and 1.27 of the Code. Many other sections of the Code are supported by guidance of this kind.
As part of the process to assess the need for guidance and to gather views on suggestions for its content, Ofcom discussed children's participation with broadcasters, programme makers and PACT (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television), as well as national and regional children’s interest groups, and academic child experts.
Ofcom also commissioned Sherbert Research to undertake an independent qualitative research study to explore the views of children and parents on children participating in non-fiction programmes. This report lays out the findings from this independent research study.