Legal obligations are set in place by the government and must be abided by in order for TV and film companies to stay on the right side of the law. There are a number of acts and regulatory bodies that are relevant to the TV and film industries. In my media classes we already covered contractual issues, employment legislation and ethical obligations. In this post I cover important acts that have affected the media industry and in another post, I will look at Ofcom and the BBFC that regulate the TV and film industries.
The Race Relations Act of 1976 and later amendments to the act were put in place to ensure that racial discrimination would not be tolerated and respect and tolerance should be promoted between racial groups. Most recently the Act was amended to ensure public bodies promote racial equality and in terms of broadcasting, it ensured that racial discrimination or hatred was not allowed to be practised. ‘Under the Race Relations Act 1976, organisations can offer training to specific groups that are under-represented in their workforce, but it remains illegal to offer a job to one person over someone equally qualified on the basis of their skin colour’. The BBC was nevertheless attacked by some for recruiting many ethnic minorities to one of its trainee schemes. There is a desire to employ more people from diverse backgrounds at the BBC but they have to be very careful that they do not discriminate against anyone for the colour of their skin.
Another Act that affects the TV and film industries is the Broadcasting Act of 1990 and the later amendments. A big part of this was to ensure that no one media company gained too great a monopoly over the industry. For example the Act states that ‘National newspaper owners prevented from holding more than a 20% stake in TV companies, with similar restrictions on cross-ownership between commercial TV, satellite TV and national radio stations’. Channel 5 was set up and Channel 4 lost its link with ITV to spread ownership of the major TV channels and offer the public greater choice but a loophole also meant that Rupert Murdoch got around this as Sky was defined as a non-UK service. Many have criticized the monopoly that News International who own Sky and many newspapers have over the industry.
The Obscene Publications Act of 1959 and later amendments is an incredibly difficult and subjective law to enforce. The intention of the Act is to stop material that could deprave or corrupt people from being published or broadcast. Extreme images of torture, bestiality or necrophilia would most likely be classed as obscene and it would therefore be illegal to broadcast them. Channel 4 states that there are ‘stricter tests relating to harm and offence under the Communications Act 2003 and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code’ and so material like this would not be broadcast for fear of breaking specific laws, but also on grounds of taste.
Next, I'll look at Ofcom and the BBFC in more depth.