Unit 1: Task 9Legal/Ethical Issues andRegulation
Possible Impact on AudiencesSpreading of Slander:Top Gear like other TV programs need to ensure that they do not spread slander onsomebody without any evidence. If Top Gear spread slander without proof then theindividual could take action against Top Gear and sue them. This has to be enforcedunder the Libel Law.Commercial Impact:The BBC is not allowed to advertise certain brands or products. Top Gear has manydifferent car brands on its show but these brands are not being advertised butreviewed. The presenters are not allowed to recommend a certain brand or car toviewers as this would breach the BBC’S advertising policy stated in the BBC editorialguidelines. The guidelines also state that the presenters must not participate in anadvert of any kind.
Possible Impact on Audiences Cont’dRepresentations of Violence/Sex/Swearing/Imitable Behaviour:In the Ofcom guidance notes section 3, rule 3.1 it states that states that a TelevisionProgram cannot encourage crime or dangerous acts. Top Gear must also comply withthis rule and because it is a driving program the presenters cannot drive dangerouslyor go over the speed limit as this is imitable behaviour. If the presenters did do this itcould cause viewers to imitate them and break the law. Jeremy Clarkson receivedsome controversy in the Season 9 Episode 7 of Top Gear where at the end of the show,Clarkson was shown drinking Gin and Tonic whilst driving around an ice field. Theproducers and Clarkson claimed that this was legal as they were in internationalwaters but the BBC trust found that this might be imitable behaviour and could“glamourise the misuse of alchohol” and was not appropriate for a family show beforethe Watershed.The presenters also have to ensure they do not swear on the program as Top Gear isaired at around 7pm which is before the Watershed. The rules in section 1 of theOfcom guidance notes states that their is an objective to protect under 18 year olds.The program does this by not swearing, which could be a bad influence on under 18year olds. Top Gear is identified as a Family Show.
Relevant LawsLike all other TV programs, Top Gear have to comply with different media laws of what they canshow on screen. These laws are: Copyright, Libel, Obscenity, Child Protection and Cruelty toanimal laws.Copyright Laws:The Top Gear logo, opening titles and track is copyrighted by the BBC and are not allowed to bedisplayed by another Media company without the BBC’s approval. Likewise Top Gear is notallowed to broadcast any copyright content from another brand or company without thereapproval. This can include archive footage from another TV show, music, photographs or even alogo. Top Gear cannot broadcast anything that has been copyrighted without the ownerspermission.Libel Law: This law is to govern what can and cannot be said about certain individuals. If the TopGear presenters said something which could potentially cause harm or distress to an individualin any way then they will be in breach of the Libel Law. This means the presenters cannot give‘nicknames’ to people who they do not know as this may cause that person to becomedistressed and that individual would be able to sue the BBC who make Top Gear.Child Protection Law: Top Gear needs to ensure it does nothing which could cause harm ordistress to under 18 year old viewers or guests on the show. This involves putting no puttingthem in danger of any kind. Top Gear obliges by this law as they rarely have under 18 year oldson the show but when they do, no harm is coming to them. “Children must…be protected byappropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them”
Animal Cruelty Law: Occasionally animals appear on the show, such as the Top Gear dog. TopGear have to abide by the law to not harm or abuse any animals when filming the show. Thismeans that the animals on Top Gear such as the Top Gear dog are not to be abused in any waywhich may cause the dog harm or distress. However occasionally Top Gear has received somecontroversy about the way they have treated animals. The Top Gear presenters received severalcomplaints about a dead cow used in series 9 episode 3. They placed the dead cow on the topof Jeremy Clarkson’s car. Many viewers thought this is a cruel way to treat the animal and theanimal was hurt but Top Gear producers reassured the public that the cow had died several daysprior to filming.Top Gear also received complaints the animal protection agency PETA about a dead mouseJeremy Clarkson put on his twitter during the filming of a Top Gear epsiode in Russia. He quotedon the picture “Unfortunately some animals got injured during the taping of ‘Top Gear Live’ inMoscow”. This caused Clarkson controversy from several animal rights groups.Obscenity Law: As Top Gear is before the Watershed they are not allowed to show obscenity.This includes any of the ‘private’ areas of a person. Top Gear has no need to show obscenity andso complies with this law.Relevant Laws Cont’d
Ofcom and the BBC as RegulatorsThe Office of Communications otherwise known as Ofcom is the regulator for telecoms in theUK. This mean that Ofcom also regulate the Television sector and operates under theCommunications act 2003. Ofcom enforces the relevant laws and enforces the watershed. Allprograms have to abide by the regulations in the ‘Ofcom broadcasting guidance notes’.The BBC also have strict rules and regulations which is specifically for BBC programs such as TopGear. The rules can be found in the ‘BBC Editorial Guidlines’ and enforces what BBC programscan and cannot do. These guidelines state that a BBC presenter or TV program must notadvertise a product or brand.“Broadcasters must ensure that they are articulating alternative viewpoints in a duly objectivemanner. Programme content should not be skewed (e.g. through the editing of views) in amanner that undermines impartiality.”This quote is taken from the ‘Ofcom Broadcasting Guidance Notes’ and states that to make atopic unbiased there must be two sides of the argument. This is why there are three presenterson Top Gear. One presenter will usually criticise a car and the other will support a car to make abalanced argument of how good or bad the car is. The third presenter will usually be neutral orwill not participate in the argument.