New policy on violent footage launched

ITV News and GMTV have introduced a new policy on the use of footage depicting violent scenes after viewers complained to Ofcom over the broadcasters' use of CCTV images showing a knife attack on two students, in which one of the victims died.

Six viewers complained to Ofcom about ITV1, the BBC, Sky News and GMTV, whose news bulletins broadcast the images in June, on the day that the attackers were sentenced.

Ofcom said in a report: "We welcome the assurances that tighter editorial control has been introduced over the use of violent images in pre-watershed news bulletins."

ITV defended its decision to use the CCTV images, as the issue of knife crime was high on the public agenda when the story was broadcast.

In addition, both the police and the victims' families made it clear that they wanted the media to air the images to demonstrate how dangerous the results can be when young men carry knives.

However, ITV accepted that it should have used greater caution. In addition to the new editorial policy, the company has organised a seminar for all programme editors to reinforce editorial guidelines.

GMTV argued that the images, which were only broadcast within a regional news bulletin "opt-out" for the London area, would have been seen only by a very small number of children, and that it is primarily a news programme.

But Ofcom said that while it welcomed GMTV's assurances that lessons had been learned and the procedures had been changes, "the particular handling of this story, within the regional news opt-out, was especially inappropriate and unsuitable, and therefore in breach of Ofcom's Broadcasting Code".

GMTV has since instructed all of its suppliers of regional bulletins that footage should be carefully vetted in future.

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