Guidance for Broadcasters
We’ve received a complaint about an election programme directly, what should we do with it?
Will you assess election programme complaints differently from other complaints?
As with all our decisions we will assess any complaint on the facts and against the standards in the relevant Code(s). We will endeavour to deal with any complaints as quickly as possible. However, we do recognise that elections have a special context. The standards will be applied in a manner that respects the importance of free political expression and debate. See the introduction to the Election Programmes Code.
In what format do you need a copy of the programme?
Please email it to us in electronic format – Windows Media Files for television and MP3 for radio. If you are unable to do that we will work with you to find an acceptable alternative. Please contact us if those formats are likely to be an issue for you.
Should we stop playing the election advertisement while the BSA determines the complaint?
The BSA cannot direct you to stop playing a programme that has been complained about so this will need to be your decision. You should assess this on a case by case basis but you may choose to have regard to the nature of the complaint (a serious allegation of inaccuracy or denigration may cause more issues in election time than, for example, issues relating to good taste and decency or law and order), the effect of continuing to play the ad in terms of free and fair elections and, of course, the principle that free speech should not be unduly fettered. The political party that is responsible for the ad should also be consulted in any decision you choose to make.
What will the BSA do if it upholds a complaint under the Election Programmes Code?
Given the special nature of election programmes, the BSA tends not to make its usual orders but it reserves the right to make an order if warranted. Apart from this, in the event of an uphold the BSA expects the broadcaster and political party concerned to alter the advertisement if possible to alleviate the breach and an offer to do so could be taken into account by the BSA in determining an appropriate order.
Disclaimer: Nothing here binds the BSA in determining the outcome of any future complaint. Each complaint is determined on the particular facts surrounding a broadcast.