Ofcom has updated its code to widen definition the definition of hate speech, including intolerance of gender reassignment.
Broadcasters were previously required to ensure shows contained no material that incited hated based on race, religion, nationality or sex.
This has now been amended to include transgender intolerance and ‘political or any other opinion’.
The guidelines now state: ‘All forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance on the grounds of disability, ethnicity, social origin, sex, gender, gender reassignment, nationality, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, colour, genetic features, language, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth or age.’
Ofcom’s new changes came into effect at 11pm on December 31, 2020.
Addressing the guidelines during a consultation process, ViacomCBS Networks reportedly stated that the TV watchdog needed to ‘consider context’ in terms of hate speech.
They also urged regulators to allow content which ‘challenges boundaries’ without meaning harm to viewers.
Another unnamed respondent raised similar concerns, fearing that ‘hate speech’ was too broad a term.
A spokesman said: ‘These are characteristics referred to in Article 21 of the European Charter on Fundamental Freedoms, and Ofcom is required by law to prohibit hate speech against any group covered by the characteristics set out in the Charter.
‘We would consider any complaints about potential incitement against those characteristics taking into account the facts of an individual case.
‘As stated in our consultation, any consideration would also take into account freedom of expression.’
Bosses said that context was ‘very important’ when considering the rules, adding: ‘The importance of freedom of expression in relation to political matters and content that is in the public interest is central to Ofcom’s application of the code and the proposed amendment does not change this.’
What is Ofcom and what does it cover?
Ofcom is the regulator for the communications services that we use and rely on each day.
The watchdog makes sure people get the best from their broadband, home phone and mobile services, as well as keeping an eye on TV and radio.
Ofcom deals with most content on television, radio and video-on-demand services, including the BBC. However, if your complaint is about something you saw or heard in a BBC programme, you may need to complain to the BBC first.
Its rules for television and radio programmes are set out in the Broadcasting Code.
The rules in the Broadcasting Code also apply to the BBC iPlayer.
This Broadcasting Code is the rule book that broadcasters have to follow and it covers a number of areas, including; protecting the under-18s, protecting audiences from harmful and/or offensive material and ensuring that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.
Audiences can complain to Ofcom if they believe a breach of the Broadcasting Code has been made.
Every time Ofcom receives a complaint from a viewer or listener, they assess it to see if it needs further investigation.
If Ofcom decide to investigate, they will include the case in a list of new investigations, published in the Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin.
An investigation is a formal process which can take some time depending on the complexity of the issues involved.
Ofcom can also launch investigations in the absence of a complaint from a viewer or listener.