Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the BBC (RTS 07)

  Thank you for the letter of 30 November, already acknowledged, asking for the BBC's views on the portrayal of road traffic speed in our programmes.

  Although road traffic speed is not explicitly referred to in the BBC Producers' Guidelines, one of our core editorial values as set out in the Guidelines is to "try and ensure that any life threatening, anti-social or criminal behaviour portrayed in BBC programmes does not encourage copycat actions". Guidance for programme makers on how to achieve this is laid out in Chapter 8: "Initiative and Anti-Social Behaviour". Inappropriate or illegal driving speeds and other forms of dangerous or reckless driving come under this category.

  As with other criminal activity, programme makers are expected to take great care that speeding or dangerous driving is not glamourised. In particular programme makers must not be involved in commissioning, aiding or encouraging such anti-social or criminal behaviour. However, there will be instances when the depiction of speeding is editorially justified. In drama it may be central to the story line, or in a documentary it may form the basis of the programme's investigation. In such cases the BBC expects programme makers to exercise careful judgements about how to portray such speeding incidents, taking into account the nature of the programme, its editorial context, the time and channel of transmission and its intended audience. If programme makers have any concerns about how to handle such issues, our Editorial Policy team is always available for advice.

  There are therefore no plans to include a specific reference to road traffic speed in the Guidelines.

  The BBC ensures that all complaints it receives, including those about road traffic speed, are investigated. Editorial Policy monitors calls to the BBC's duty log and reviews programmes which have prompted viewer concern. In circumstances where a problem is identified, Editorial Policy will contact the production team to discuss the issues raised and how to deal with them in the future. The BBC's Programme Complaints Unit, which exists to investigate serious breaches of the BBC's published guidelines, has so far upheld no complaint about inappropriate portrayal of speed in a BBC programme.

  As far as specialist motoring programmes such as Top Gear are concerned, part of their editorial brief is to be an authority on all aspects of the cars they test. Performance is a vital part of the assessment of any car, but great care is taken to recognise the anti-social aspects of speeding and audience concern about the issue. Drivers of cars tested on public roads do not exceed speed limits and obey the Highway Code. When such programmes test the performance of cars above speed limits, the tests are conducted by skilled drivers and only carried out on private land such as racetracks or disused runways, in clear areas without other vehicles. "Health warnings" of the "don't try this on the roads" variety are also frequently given.

  Programmes such as So You Think You're a Good Driver, presented by Nick Ross, are specifically aimed at drawing attention to bad driving habits, including speeding, and educating viewers about safer driving standards.

  I hope you will find the above information helpful.

Greg Dyke


17 December 2001

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