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Communications Act 2003

Section 319: OFCOM’s standards code

671.Subsection (1) places OFCOM under a duty to set standards for the content of television and radio services, which shall be contained in a code or codes.

672.These codes must secure the objectives set out in subsection (2). Those objectives relate to the protection of minors; the prohibition of material likely to encourage crime or disorder; the impartiality of television and radio services; the accuracy of the news; the content of religious programmes; the protection of the public from offensive and harmful material; the exclusion of advertising which contravenes the ban on political advertising set out in section 321(2); the prevention of misleading, harmful or offensive advertising and unsuitable sponsorship; compliance with the United Kingdom’s international obligations with respect to advertsing; the prevention of undue discrimination between advertisers; and the prohibition of broadcasts of subliminal material.

673.A particular standards objective relates to responsible religious broadcasting. Subsection (6) expands upon this to safeguard against the improper exploitation of any susceptibilities of the audience or the abusive treatment of the religious views and beliefs of those belonging to a particular religion or denomination.

674.Subsection (5) makes clear that, while minimum standards will be of general application, OFCOM are also under a duty to set standards for particular types of programme or service (for example, children’s programmes) where OFCOM consider that such standards are appropriate to achieve the objectives contained in subsection (2).

675.In setting the standards, OFCOM are under a duty to have regard to the factors set out in subsection (4) so far as they are relevant. These concern the degree of harm or offence likely to be caused by the content of programmes; the probable size and composition of the audience; the expectation of the audience as to the nature of a programme’s content and the extent to which it can be brought to their attention; the danger of accidental exposure of a person to content, the nature of which they were unaware; the desirability of indicating when there is a change affecting the nature of the service being watched or listened to; and the desirability of maintaining independent editorial control over the content of a programme.

676.Paragraph 43 of Schedule 18 provides that any code drawn up under section 6, 7, 9, 90, 91 or 93 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 or section 108 of the Broadcasting Act 1996 shall have effect as if it were a code issued by OFCOM for the purpose of this section. However, codes drawn up under the Broadcasting Act 1990 shall only apply to services authorised by licences under that Act and, in the case of codes under section 6, 7 and 9 of that Act, S4C. As regards codes drawn up under section 108 of the Broadcasting Act 1996, these will only have effect for services provided by the BBC or the Welsh Authority and then only to the extent that the codes contain provisions applying to those services and, in the case of the Welsh Authority, which relate to matters other than advertising and impartiality.

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