Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Hints on complaining to Ofcom about Bringing Up baby

Tonight's programme (2 Oct, part two of four) has only served to reinforce our concerns about this damaging programme. The notes below may help those who wish to make a considered complaint to Ofcom.

How to complain:

Ofcom have explained to me how their system works. They DO NOT respond according to the number of complaints received (as was evident in the Big Brother case), but they DO respond to complaints that indicate a broadcaster is in breach of their code.

This means they may have thousands of complaints and not take action (as in Big Brother), or they may act after just one complaint if they feel this shows the code has been breached.

It is therefore of the utmost importance that complaints either make reference to, or clearly indicate which part of the code you feel has been broken. This will be key to the success or otherwise of any complaints.

There is a major problem with this. The Code makes no reference to infants or babies (that I can find), which I suspect leaves a loophole for programme makers and broadcasters to produce what they wish without regulation.

The Ofcom Broadcasting Code can be viewed in a new window here. The Code barely covers the concerns we have over Bringing up Baby. I would recommend anyone study the Code before writing a complaint, but as a guide I have briefly looked at the Code and suggest those that may be helpful with any complaint:

Section 1 - Protecting the Under-Eighteens

1.1 Material that might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of people under eighteen must not be broadcast.

Most of this section concerns children viewing programmes before the watershed, however, BUB in part one did encourage a young girl (clearly upset) to avoid contact with her new sibling.

Section 2 - Harm and Offence

2.2 Factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience.

Section 5 - Due Impartiality and Due Accuracy and Undue Prominence of Views and Opinions

This sections Principles are: (Quote)

To ensure that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

To ensure that the special impartiality requirements of the Act are complied with

Sadly, I can't see much here that is relevant as Section 5 is news based, but the essence of the rules easily apply to infants, as do the meaning, and maybe this can be highlighted to Ofcom in a complaint...

Meaning of "due impartiality":

"Due" is an important qualification to the concept of impartiality. Impartiality itself means not favouring one side over another. "Due" means adequate or appropriate to the subject and nature of the programme. So "due impartiality" does not mean an equal division of time has to be given to every view, or that every argument and every facet of every argument has to be represented. The approach to due impartiality may vary according to the nature of the subject, the type of programme and channel, the likely expectation of the audience as to content, and the extent to which the content and approach is signalled to the audience. Context, as defined in Section Two: Harm and Offence of the Code, is important.

Section 7 - Fairness

Dealing fairly with contributors and obtaining informed consent

7.3 Where a person is invited to make a contribution to a programme (except when the subject matter is trivial or their participation minor) they should normally, at an appropriate stage:
  • • be told the nature and purpose of the programme, what the programme is about and be given a clear explanation of why they were asked to contribute and when (if known) and where it is likely to be first broadcast;

  • • be told what kind of contribution they are expected to make, for example live, pre-recorded, interview, discussion, edited, unedited, etc;

  • • be informed about the areas of questioning and, wherever possible, the nature of other likely contributions;

  • • be made aware of any significant changes to the programme as it develops which might reasonably affect their original consent to participate, and which might cause material unfairness;

  • • be told the nature of their contractual rights and obligations and those of the programme maker and broadcaster in relation to their contribution; and

  • • be given clear information, if offered an opportunity to preview the programme, about whether they will be able to effect any changes to it.

  • Taking these measures is likely to result in the consent that is given being 'informed consent' (referred to in this section and the rest of the Code as "consent").

    It may be fair to withhold all or some of this information where it is justified in the public interest or under other provisions of this section of the Code.


    Poor Pothecary said...

    I can add to this that I've had dealings with Ofcom (complaining about one-sided presentation of poor dietary advice in a programme) and can confirm that there's little chance of invoking the impartiality section, which applies only to "matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy".

    jamila169 said...

    I complained to ofcom citing these 2 sections of the code
    1.26 Due care must be taken over the physical and emotional welfare and the dignity of people under eighteen who take part or are otherwise involved in programmes. This is irrespective of any consent given by the participant or by a parent, guardian or other person over the age of eighteen in loco parentis.

    1.27 People under eighteen must not be caused unnecessary distress or anxiety by their involvement in programmes or by the broadcast of those programmes.

    I'm pretty sure going against safe sleeping guidelines breaches 1.26 and the distress caused to the babies and the older girl breaches 1.27. However have heard nothing from ofcom in reply

    Slippy said...

    I'm going to try to do some work on this over the weekend but if anyone has the time beforehand - there is also a section about the commission of Crime. If we can demonstrate that the actions constitute an offence under child protection legislation then C4 are technically guilty under section 3.1:

    3.1 Material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder must not be included in television or radio services.

    Keep up the fight !

    Sarah V. said...

    Thanks. This was extremely useful and helped me to figure out how to go about complaining. I plan to complain under sections 1.26, 1.27 and 2.2 - I've posted the planned letter to the CPG group for any last-minute comments on it before I send it.

    Slippy said...

    I raised the question of child protection legislation to the NSPCC. They didn't reply directly to the question, of course, but do at least show that they are aware and taking notice:


    The NSPCC is warning parents that ‘Bringing up Baby’ is publicising outdated and potentially harmful methods of baby care and is calling on TV executives to be more careful when making such programmes.

    The programme has provoked one of the highest levels of inquiries the charity has experienced in recent years, with more than 60 messages from viewers expressing their concerns at some of the methods it promotes.

    One method tested in the programme relies on what the NSPCC considers as strict, inflexible routines which deny eye contact between parent and baby during feeding, promote limited cuddling and leave infants to cry alone for long periods. These rigid routines appeared to leave some babies and parents taking part in the programme in distress.

    NSPCC parenting advisor Eileen Hayes said: “Suggesting that a small baby could be ‘manipulative’ is discredited and can lead to potentially damaging patterns of care. Similarly leaving babies to cry for long periods is stressful and research suggests it may be damaging. Strict authoritarian routines pay little attention to parents’ natural instincts about their infants or the wealth of research that has shown the importance of early sensitive care for health and well-being. It’s the most natural thing in the world for a mother to want to cuddle and make eye contact with her newborn - and babies love it as well.

    “Babies are born with a social instinct and communicate through touch, sound, eye contact and facial expressions. This sensitive communication plays a vital role in attachment, and ensuring that infants develop a sense of trust and security, which gives a firm foundation for their growing sense of identity and self-esteem.

    “The first weeks after birth are a crucial period when parents and babies get to know one other. It can be a very challenging time when vulnerable parents are particularly anxious to get advice about the best way to care for their baby. Programme-makers must recognise that some viewers may consider what they see as an approved method. They have a responsibility to tell viewers when methods are widely disputed by health professionals and academics.


    Email help@nspcc.org.uk if you want to add your voice of concern.