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.
17 December 2001