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Ofcom letter to the Daily Telegraph regarding due impartiality

Published: 16 June 2023
Last updated: 16 June 2023

We have sent a letter to the Daily Telegraph, published today, which sets out our rules for due impartiality in broadcasting. This follows recent debate and previously published letters on this subject. The full text of the letter is below.


Two submissions to the Daily Telegraph within the last week (Comment, June 13, and Letter, June 14) debated Ofcom’s due impartiality rules in our Broadcasting Code and how they apply. As arbiter of these important rules, we want to set the record straight.

The requirement for due impartiality is set by Parliament. It has been in place since long before Ofcom’s inception, and ensures that audiences encounter a diverse array of voices and perspectives. Importantly, it does not mean “strictly impartial” or “neutral”. Nor is it a mathematical construct where equal airtime must be given to each opposing view. The “due” component is extremely important.

"Due” means adequate or appropriate to the subject and nature of the programme. Our Broadcasting Code makes clear that our approach to due impartiality may vary according to the nature of the subject, the type of programme and channel, the likely expectations of the audience to particular channels and programmes, and the extent to which the content and approach is signalled to that audience. This has always been the case since the Code’s introduction in 2005 and reflects the approach taken by regulators prior to Ofcom’s creation.

Crucially, in applying these rules, we are required by law to take into account broadcasters' editorial freedom and their viewers' and listeners' right to freedom of expression.

Ofcom licences around 2,000 TV and radio services in the UK. All are subject to these due impartiality rules, but we do not expect them to adopt the exact same approach to preserving it. That, rightly, is an editorial matter for broadcasters, and there are a number of techniques they can use. There is no one-size-fits all approach.

Broadcasting in the UK enjoys a rich history of personality-led, opinion-based programming and in applying our rules we want to support rigorous and lively debate. So diverse editorial approaches to due impartiality – such as some of those seen in recent years – can be accommodated, provided the programmes are duly impartial by including an appropriate range of alternative views.

We apply our due impartiality rules without fear or favour, and where broadcasters fall short, we don’t hesitate to step in.

Siobhan Walsh, Broadcasting and Media Group Director, Ofcom

London SE1

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