The V-Chip and Television Ratings: British and European Perspectives
Andrea Millwood Hargrave
The United Kingdom has one of the most regulated broadcasting environments in the world. The British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC) self-regulates through its Board of Governors. The Independent Television Commission (the ITC) grants licenses to, and regulates, the commercial television sector, including satellite-delivered services. The Broadcasting Standards Commission1 (the BSC)acts as an independent body, established by statute, to consider complaints from the public on the issue of standards in broadcasting (such as the portrayal of violence, of sex and of matters of taste and decency, including bad language, stereotyping, and areas such as the treatment of disasters), and to consider complaints and offer redress on the question of unfair or unjust treatment in programs and unwarranted infringements of privacy. In addition, the BSC must monitor program content and may undertake research into all the areas within its remit, which covers all television, radio, cable, and satellite services.
Each of the regulatory bodies -- the BBC, the ITC, and the BSC -- produces a Code of Practice or guidelines that cover the areas within its remit. Each is aimed at slightly different audiences. The BBC's reflects its role as regulator and broadcaster, with detailed producer guidelines in certain areas. The ITC's reflects its role as licensor of commercial broadcasting. The BSC's Code of Practice aims to provide general principles for program makers but seeks to avoid what has been described as "the chilling effect" (an inherent danger to creativity in proscriptive regulation). The code seeks to reflect the BSC's role as a consumer voice, providing guidance and a framework within which broadcasters may work. It is laid down in the statute that the codes produced by the BSC must be reflected