Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 12:02 UK

Public to have say on BBC policy

Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand
New guidance on harm and offence follow the Radio 2 prank calls row

Licence fee payers are being asked for their views on new editorial guidelines for BBC programme makers, before they are published next summer.

A draft document includes new guidance on "intimidation, humiliation, intrusion and aggression" following last year's Radio 2 prank calls row.

There are also revised guidelines on bleeping out swear words.

It is the first time the public have been consulted on the BBC guidelines, which are updated every five years.

Public acceptability is constantly changing, so it is right that we should reflect on the standards the BBC should be setting
Trustee Richard Tait

Richard Tait, chair of the BBC Trust's editorial standard committee, said licence fee payers expected the organisation "to meet the highest standards".

"The editorial guidelines exist to guide programme makers in making considered editorial decisions which balance freedom of expression with their responsibilities to the audience, contributors and others.

"Public acceptability is constantly changing, so it is right that we should reflect on the standards the BBC should be setting, as well as ask licence fee payers what they think when reviewing the guidelines."

In the consultation document, licence fee payers are asked for their views on the BBC's policies on accuracy, impartiality, harm and offence. Opinions are also being sought on the "overall clarity of the guidelines".

'Strongest language'

Some of the adjustments follow a review of standards carried out in the wake of the the row over obscene phone messages left for Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs by Radio 2 presenters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

That report, published in June, called for the new guidance on derogatory remarks as well as clearer warnings about programme content.

Some comedy can be cruel but unduly intimidatory, humiliating, intrusive, aggressive or derogatory remarks must not be celebrated for the purposes of entertainment
Draft editorial guidelines

Sections of the draft guidelines the public are being asked to comment on include the following: "Intimidation, humiliation, intrusion, aggression and derogatory remarks are all aspects of human behaviour that may be discussed or included in BBC output.

"Some comedy can be cruel but unduly intimidatory, humiliating, intrusive, aggressive or derogatory remarks must not be celebrated for the purposes of entertainment.

"Care should be taken that such comments and the tone in which they are delivered are proportionate to their target."

The draft guidelines say that any proposal to use the "strongest language" must be "approved by the relevant output controller", before listing three words that fall into that category.

And they go on to say their may also be instances "where it may be necessary to edit or bleep language, even post-watershed" where swearing is "editorially justified but the slot, channel or context are not appropriate for strong language".

The consultation document asks viewers to comment on whether "the guidelines on strong language are appropriate".



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