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The Ofcom Broadcasting Code (with the Cross-promotion Code and the On Demand Programme Service Rules)

Published: 12 June 2023
Last updated: 12 June 2023

The Ofcom Broadcasting Code ("the Code") covers all programmes broadcast on or after 23:00 on 31 December 2020.

We have also published guidance for broadcasters on the Ofcom Broadcasting Code which can be viewed in each section of the Code below.

Programmes broadcast prior to 23:00 on 31 December 2020 are covered by the version of the Code that was in force at the date of broadcast. See our legacy codes for previous versions of the Broadcasting Code.

Ofcom is required under the Communications Act 2003 (as amended) ("the Act") and the Broadcasting Act 1996 (as amended) ("the 1996 Act") to draw up a code for television and radio, covering standards in programmes, sponsorship, product placement in television programmes, fairness and privacy. This Code is to be known as the Ofcom Broadcasting Code ("the Code").

Find out more about the legislative background to the Code.

The Code is set out in terms of principles, meanings and rules and, for Sections seven (Fairness) and eight (Privacy), also includes a set of "practices to be followed” by broadcasters. The principles are there to help readers understand the standards objectives and to apply the rules. Broadcasters must ensure that they comply with the rules as set out in the Code. The meanings help explain what Ofcom intends by some of the words and phrases used in the Code. The most relevant broadcasting legislation is noted under each section heading so readers can turn to the legislation if they wish.

See more on how to use this Code.

It is the responsibility of the broadcaster to comply with the Code. Programme makers who require further advice on applying this Code should, in the first instance, talk to those editorially responsible for the programme and to the broadcaster's compliance and legal officers.

See more general guidance.

The Broadcasting Code, section by section

This section outlines the rules around scheduling and content information in programmes with regard to protecting children under the age of eighteen.

See section one.

This section outlines standards for broadcast content so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from harmful and/or offensive material.

See section two.

This section of the Code covers material that is likely to incite crime or disorder, reflecting Ofcom’s duty to prohibit the broadcast of this type of programming.

See section three.

This section relates to the responsibility of broadcasters with respect to the content of religious programmes.

See section four.

To ensure that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

To ensure that the special impartiality requirements of the Act are complied with.

See section five.

This section covers the special impartiality requirements and other legislation that must be applied at the time of elections and referendums.

See section six.

This section is to ensure that broadcasters avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes.

See section seven.

This section is to ensure that broadcasters avoid any unwarranted infringement of privacy in programmes and in connection with obtaining material included in programmes.

See section eight.

This section relates to broadcasters' editorial independence and control over programming with a distinction between editorial content and advertising.

See section nine.

This section relates to radio broadcast only and is to ensure the transparency of commercial communications as a means to secure consumer protection.

See section ten.

Subject to this Cross-promotion Code, television broadcasters are able to promote programmes, channels and other broadcasting-related services without such promotions being considered advertising and included in the calculation of advertising minutage.

See the Cross-promotion Code.

The On Demand Programme Service Rules ensure that cross-promotions on television are distinct from advertising and inform viewers of services that are likely to be of interest to them as viewers; and ensure that promotions on television outside programmes do not prejudice fair and effective competition.

See the Rules and guidance, procedures and notifications.

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