What is Ofcom?
Ofcom is the UK’s independent communications regulator.
Set up by Parliament, we regulate television, radio and video on demand services, as well as fixed line telecoms, mobiles and the airwaves for wireless devices.
Ofcom has legal duties to protect viewers and listeners – and especially those aged under 18 – from harmful or inappropriate material broadcast on TV and radio.
Our rules for TV, radio programmes are set out in the Broadcasting Code. The Broadcasting Code sets the standards which broadcasters have to follow. Ofcom also has rules for video on demand service providers (like film or catch up services).
The Broadcasting Code includes a whole section dedicated to the rules for protecting children.
For example, Ofcom’s rules impose a watershed on TV to help prevent unsuitable material being shown before 9pm when children could be watching.
There are also rules about the times broadcasters choose to schedule their programmes, and restrictions on offensive language, violence, sexual material, and dangerous or harmful behaviour that children might try to copy.
Our rules for video on demand services mean they can’t show material which is prohibited or restricted due to its adult nature.
Ofcom also works to ensure that broadcasters and video on demand service providers understand the rules and the standards we expect of them in all areas, and particularly when it comes to protecting children.
Dealing with complaints
Ofcom isn’t a censor and we don’t have the powers to approve programmes before they’re broadcast on TV or radio, or shown on a video on demand service. If you have a complaint about a programme that hasn’t yet been broadcast or shown on a video on demand service, you should contact the broadcaster or on demand provider directly. You can find licensed broadcasters' contact details here and regulated on demand programme service providers' details here.
Each year Ofcom receives thousands of complaints from viewers and listeners.
We rely on viewers and listeners to be our eyes and ears and alert us to when our rules may have been broken. We consider every single complaint carefully and assess it against the Broadcasting Code to see if we need to investigate further.
Each investigation is a formal process which can take weeks but in some cases months, depending on the complexity and the issues involved.
We publish our decisions on complaints in Ofcom’s fortnightly Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin. This is the formal record of our decisions. It sends a clear signal to broadcasters and on demand service providers about what is and isn’t acceptable, and acts as an incentive for them not to break our rules.
If a broadcaster or on demand service provider seriously or repeatedly breaks the rules, Ofcom has the legal power to impose sanctions. This could be a substantial fine or even taking away a broadcaster’s licence to broadcast or suspending an on demand programme service.
Making a complaint
If you’ve seen something on TV, on a video on demand service or heard something on radio that you thought was unsuitable for children, ParentPort can take you to Ofcom’s website so you can make a complaint.
Complaints about the BBC
If your concerns in this area are about a programme on a BBC TV or radio channel or the BBC iPlayer, or about the content of the BBC’s website, you should make your complaint to the BBC in the first instance. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your complaint to the BBC, you can refer your complaint to Ofcom.
ParentPort’s complaints section will explain what you can do next.
What parents, guardians and carers think is important to us. If you don’t have a specific complaint but would like to express your views about what’s suitable for children on TV and radio, please let us know. You can submit comments through ParentPort’s Have Your Say section.
Want to find out more?
If you’d like to keep up to date with all our decisions, you can receive Ofcom’s Broadcast and on Demand Bulletins by clicking on this link Broadcast and On Demand Bulletins. You can then add the web feed to your browser or RSS reader.