NCTJ Broadcast Regulation


Section 1 - Protecting the under-18s

The general principle of this rule is to ensure that people under 18 are protected, with most of the focus being on those in the audience.

Children in the code are those under 15 years old

The rules state you should protect children by appropriately scheduling material relevant to them

  • In TV this means not before watershed.
  • In Radio this means when children are particularly likely to be listening.
  • For both, the transition to non-child friendly broadcasting shouldn't be too sudden.


  • 'Appropriately limited' and 'easily imitable' violence should not be broadcast pre-watershed (unless editorially justified).

Offensive Language

  • Most offensive language not before watershed, other offensive language must be justified by context and frequent use avoided.


  • Not ok to show people having sex pre-watershed except for 'serious educational purposes' and nudified must be justified by the context.

The final two rules in this section apply to those involved in programmes, and state:

  • Due care should be taken over u18s welfare and must not cause unnecessary distress or anxiety by their involvement in programmes.
  • Section 7 and 8 will also be relevant to participants in programmes
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Section 2 - Harm and Offence

Principle: ensure generally acceptable standards' are applied to broadcast content to protect the public from harmful or offensive material.

Broadcasting material that may cause offence should be justified by the context and appropriate information should be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising offence.

Must not broadcast material that glamorisies or condones violent, dangerous or anti-social behaviour and is likely to encourage replication.

Methods of suicide and self-harm should not be included in programmes unless editorially justified and justified by context.

Also should be aware that if broadcasting flashing lights or camera flashes must be editorially justified and should give an approporiate verbal and text warning.

Also, if simulated news is broadcast must make it clear so as to not mislead audience.

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Section 3 - Crime, Disorder, Hatred and Abuse

Principle: Ensure material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder is not broadcast.

NOTE: High bar for breaches of Section 3, more likely will just fall into a breach of Section 2.

  • Material likely to encourage or incite crime or lead to disorder should NEVER be broadcast.
  • Hate speech or abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities must be justifed by the context.
  • Keep descriptions or details of crime to a minimum, and must editorially justify if included.
  • Payments to criminals or witnesses normally not acceptable, but could be justified by public interest (unless case active).
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Section 4 - Religion

Principle: to ensure broadcasters exercise proper degree of responsibility with respect to content of 'religious programmes'.

NOTE: Only applies to 'religious programmes' i.e. those dealing with matters of religion as central subject, or as significant part of programme.

Identity/denomination of subject of programme should be clear and particular religious views and beliefs should not be subject to abusive treatment.

Also, religious programmes should not seek to promote religious views or beliefs by stealth, or through exploiting susceptibilities of audience.

Claims of a living person having special powers should be treated with due objectivity and must not be broadcast when children likely to be watching.

On TV programmes cannot seek recruits, on radio they may seek recruits.

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Section 5 - Due impartiality and Accuracy

Principle: To ensure the news is reported with due accuracy and due impartiality.

Those affecting ALL news:

  • Due impartiality is NOT equal time or weight for each view or argument.
  • Politicians should not be used to report news without exceptional editorial justification.
  • Due accuracy means adequate/appropriate to the subject and nature of the programme.
  • Mistakes should be corrected on air quickly and correction of mistakes in past programmes should be 'appropriately scheduled'.

Special requirements for 'matters of industrial or political controversy' or 'current public policy':

  • Due impartiality on these subjects required within a programme or over a series of programmes, with a series being made clear to the audience.
  • Views of particular people/groups should not be given undue prominence in all programmes overall.
  • Opinions and views of broadcaster and news presenters/reporters should be excluded.
  • Other presenters may express opinions, but alternative views should be 'adequately represented' and regular appearances should not compromise requirements of due impartiality.
  • Presenters/reporters conflicts of interest should be clear to audience.
  • Views and facts must not be misrepresented and views must be given due weight over appropriate timeframes.

Matters of major controversy (national or international importance) requirements:

  • Due imprtiality must be preserved on these subjects in each programme or in clearly linked and timely programmes.
  • An appropriately wide range of significant views must be included and given due weight.
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Section 6 - Elections and Referendums

NOTE: All of Section 5 applies to coverage of elections and referendums.

S6 applies during 'election period' - from dissolution of Parliament to the end of voting.

During election period:

  • 'Due weight' should be given to coverage of parties and independent candidates in election, taking into account current/past support and whether is a designated organisation (referendums).
  • 'Permitted participants' or parties should be considered for appropriate coverage.
  • Candidates for election should not be presenters or interviewers of programmes, except in appearences in non-political programmes pre-arranged before the election period.

Constituency coverage:

  • Due impartiality 'must be strictly maintained' in constituency reports or discussions.
  • If a candidate takes part in an item on their constituency, that opportunity should be extended to all other candidates.
  • For other programmes can't make constituency points, unless other candidates have same opp.
  • All constituency reports should include a list of the candidates.

On voting day:

  • Discussion and analysis of election or referendum issues should stop when polling stations open.
  • Results of opinion polls should not be reported until polling stations close (10pm).
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Section 7 - Fairness

Applies to participants/subjects of programmes.

Broadcasters should avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations participating in or directly affected by programmes.

Broadcasters should be fair in their dealings with potential contributors - unless exceptional justification not to be.

Contributors should be told basic information about programme before appearing (SWAP FC).

Contributors should be represented fairly, any guarantees normally honoured and material should not be reused in a way that creates unfairness.

U16 contributors or adults not in position to give consent, should have permission from a parent or guardian and hsould not ask views on matters 'beyond their capacity to answer properly' without parental consent.

Before broadcast, ensure material facts have not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that is unfair - applies to dramas too.

Offer anyone who's omission would be unfair an opportunity to contribute.

Serious allegations:

  • Alleging wrongdoing or incompetence should give the person/organisation concerned an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond.
  • If a person says 'no comment' or refuses to appear, broadcast should make this clear with their explanation too.
  • If representing views of someone not appearing should do so fairly. 
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Section 8 - Privacy

Any infringement or privacy in programmes, or in connection with obtaining material included in programmes, must be warranted.

'Warranted' means any breach of s8 can be justified if 'warranted', which usually means in public interest (i.e. revealing/detecting crime, exposing misleading claims, or protecting public health/safety.

Infringement of privacy in making or broadcast of programme should usually be done with consent, so if filming at an organisation should have its permission, but DO NOT need consent from people incidentally included, BUT if in sensitive situation (i.e. school, hospital, police station) should have separate consent from individuals.

Obtaining info:

  • Means of gathering information 'must be proportionate in all circumstances'.
  • Information recorded from a public place but with private information should normally have consent too, and if asked to stop because filming infringes on individuals privacy should normally do so unless 'warranted'.

Suffering and distress:

  • Generally shouldn't broadcast images of people involved in accidents without permission, or if it is warranted.
  • More leeway on this for live broadcast of newsworthy events than pre-edited broadcasts.
  • People in distress should not be pressured to take part in a programme and identity of someone unexpectedly killed should not be revealed unless family have been informed.
  • When broadcasting programmes involving past events of trauma, broadcasters should reduce the distress caused to victims or relatives - in particular victims/families should be informed of plans for programme.
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Section 9 and 10 - Commercial References

Sec 9 - (TV) 'ensure that the principles of editorial independence; distinction between advertising and editorial content; transparency of commercial arrangements; and consumer protection are maintained'.

Sec 10 - (Radio) 'ensure transaparency of commerical communications as a means to secure consumer protection'. 

NOTE - specific rules differ between TV and radio, and programme of study specifies parts which may be included on NCTJ exam. 

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