Section 5: Harm and Offence


Jump to

  1. Violence and the Protection of Children
  2. Violence Against Animals


Our audiences, particularly children, can be frightened or distressed by the portrayal of both real and fictional violence.  We should make very careful judgements when we plan to include violence in our output; there is increasing public concern about violence in society in general and as portrayed in the media, both in factual and fictional content.

Consideration should be given to the editorial justification for any depiction of violence, and violent content should normally be clearly signposted.  When real life violence, or its aftermath, is shown on television or reported on radio and online we need to strike a balance between the demands of accuracy and the dangers of desensitisation or unjustified distress.  There are very few circumstances in which it is justified to broadcast the moment of death.

(See Section 7 Privacy: 7.4.38 - 7.4.42 and Section 11 War, Terror and Emergencies)

Our editorial judgements need to consider a number of factors which, in combination, can increase the impact of violence, both in factual or fictional content:

  • violence that is true to life and may also reflect personal experience, for example domestic violence, pub brawls, football hooliganism, road rage, and mugging
  • violence in places normally regarded as safe, such as the family home and hospitals
  • unusual or sadistic methods of inflicting pain, injury or death
  • incidents where women, children and the vulnerable are the victims
  • violence without showing the effect on the victim or the consequences for the perpetrator
  • sexual violence
  • verbal aggression and tone, particularly when it includes the use of the strongest language and discriminatory or sexually offensive terms
  • suicide, attempted suicide or self-harm
  • broadcast reactions of others to violence, especially those of children
  • post-production techniques such as atmospheric music, slow motion, graphic close-ups and sound effects
  • sustained menace or unrelentingly dark tone.


We should take care to ensure that individual programmes, or programmes taken together across the schedule, avoid including material that condones or glamorises violence, dangerous or seriously anti-social behaviour, or material that is likely to encourage others to copy such behaviour, unless clearly editorially justified.

(See Guidance: Violence in News and Current Affairs and Violence in Drama)

Violence and the Protection of Children


Violence, its aftermath and descriptions of violence, broadcast in pre-watershed programmes, or on radio when children are particularly likely to be in our audience, or in online content likely to appeal to a significant proportion of children, must be appropriate to the likely audience and editorially justified.


We must ensure that verbal or physical violence that is easily imitable by children in a manner that is harmful or dangerous is not broadcast in pre-watershed programmes or on radio when children are particularly likely to be in our audience, or in online content likely to appeal to a significant proportion of children, unless there is strong editorial justification.

(See Section 5 Harm and Offence: 5.4.48 - 5.4.52)

Violence Against Animals


Audiences, particularly children, can often be distressed by images or scenes which show human violence against animals.  If the scenes are graphic but we know that the animal suffered no harm, then we should consider saying so in an on-air or online announcement or caption.

Clear editorial justification will be required on the rare occasions we broadcast graphic scenes of bullfighting, cockfighting and other similar activities, even if they are recorded in countries where they are legal.  Any proposal to do so must be referred to a senior editorial figure or, for independents, to the commissioning editor.

(See Section 8 Reporting Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour: 8.4.3 - 8.4.5)

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.