161MC: Handling Controversy

For this week’s blog task I have been asked to explain how I would act as a TV producer to respectfully and with due care portray a controversial topic in a 7 pm (pre-watershed) magazine show. The controversial topic I will use as my example is that of a child talking about being physically bullied.

Based on my research, using both the BBC’s editorial guidelines and the Ofcom broadcasting guide for pre-watershed broadcasting, the first thing I would do is ensure that before this segment of the show begins there is a clear warning to the viewers that “the following segment contains content that some viewers may find upsetting”. This is to give viewers the opportunity to avoid this potentially upsetting content. The second thing is that I would ensure no violence is portrayed on screen, either as a recording of the actual event or a dramatic recreation, and this is for two reasons. “Our audiences, particularly children, can be frightened or distressed by the portrayal of both real and fictional violence”, (BBC n.d.) so first of all I would not want to cause any young viewers any kind of distress by showing violent or threatening behaviour on screen, the second reason is that “the portrayal of dangerous behaviour, that is likely to be easily imitable by children […] must not be broadcast before the watershed”, (Ofcom 2016) so I would not want to show any real or acted violence which could be recreated by children.

For this second reason, I would also not show the child describing in detail the physical act of being bullied, as this could also be imitated by children, instead I would focus on showing the child talk about how the actions of his bullies affected him emotionally. I also think it would be important for there to be a takeaway message from this segment, rather than just a sad story for the sake of it, and so I would want an overall message showing the negative effects of bullying and telling the viewer that bullying is wrong and should not be done in words that are understandable to young children. I would also add in something about how children should tell an adult if they see another child being bullied to drive the message further. Finally, following this segment, I would schedule a more light-hearted, happier story so as not to project a sustained negative atmosphere to the audience and risk depressing viewers.


Ofcom (2016) The Ofcom Broadcasting Code (incorporating the Cross-promotion Code) [online] available from <https://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv-radio-and-on-demand/broadcast-codes/broadcast-code&gt;

BBC (n.d.) Editorial Guidelines [online] available from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidelines&gt;


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