Ofcom could allow charities to fund their own TV shows

Not-for-profit organisations could be allowed to pay for television documentaries to be made about them under new rules proposed today by Ofcom.

The media regulator has launched a consultation into a number of changes to the broadcasting code, the rulebook governing TV and radio broadcasters.

One of the plans, which could come into force by the end of this year if the public agrees to it, would allow for “public information programming”.

These would be programmes about the work of a not-for-profit organisation, funded by the group itself.

For example, the National Blood Service could be allowed to pay for a TV programme to be made raising awareness about giving blood.

Under the current broadcasting code, programmes of this type are not allowed.

“From time to time not-for-profit organisations wish to fund programmes about their own activities or interests,” Ofcom said.

“The consultation asks whether this prohibition should remain and suggests some possible rules that would ensure audience protection and editorial independence”

The proposed safeguards would require any funded programming to be in the public interest and not covering politically controversial matters.

The funding arrangements would have to be made transparent to the audience and prohibited advertisers such as political parties would be banned from taking part.

The current broadcasting code, which is now four years old, allows for “advertiser-funded programming”, but requires any references to the sponsor in the programme to be “incidental and editorially justified”.

One series, ITV1’s Beat: Life On The Street, was found to have breached the broadcasting code earlier this year because it failed to make clear to viewers that it was fully funded by the Home Office.

Charity appeals

Ofcom is also proposing to clarify the rules on broadcast charity appeals and the effect airing them might have on a broadcaster’s “due impartiality”.

It comes after a fierce reaction to a BBC decision to refuse a Disasters Emergency Committee charity appeal for the people of Gaza earlier this year.

“The [new] rules recognise that while charities differ from purely commercial entities, there is still a potential risk that the audience may suffer financial harm as a result of such appeals,” Ofcom said.

“Further, many charities operate in competition with one another and the rules therefore aim to ensure that charity appeals benefit a range of charities.

“Where appropriate, broadcasters must also pay particular attention to section five of the code [concerning due impartiality].”

Despite the controversy prompted by the Mail on Sunday‘s story on the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross lewd phone calls story, Ofcom said today it was not proposing any revisions to the parts of the broadcasting code governing taste and decency.

But it added: “Ofcom has taken and will continue to take firm action against breaches.”

The public consultation on the broadcasting review remains open until 4 September.

Press Gazette understands that the new code could come into effect by 19 December, the deadline by which the UK must have implemented a new Europe-wide piece of broadcasting legislation, the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive.

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