Program Content Rules Explained
As a free speech vehicle, BCTV has a very short list of prohibited program content. Unlike other media outlets, public access centers do not have editorial control over what goes on BCTV. Staff member do not pre-screen programs before they are scheduled to run on our channels, but we are responsible for making sure producers know what is not allowable. Producers sign a contract stating that their program adheres to these restrictions:
1. Commercial programming. Because BCTV receives quasi-public funding, we are not allowed to compete with commercial media outlets by offering free advertising. The test of whether material is commercial is whether the program makes
a. Qualitative or comparative claims – “This is the best book ever written on this subject, much better than this other book”
b. Direct inducements or calls to action – “Come to this particular bookstore and buy it now for only $9.99”
c. Overly promotional material – mentioning a product over and over during a program.
2. Fraud/Lottery. The public funds supporting BCTV cannot be used to conduct a game of chance or any other activity which might defraud the viewer by offering a prize or incentive.
3. Libel/Slander. Producers or members submitting programming are responsible if the program they create or sponsor contains libel (written defamation) or slander (oral defamation). Material that is an unlawful invasion of privacy is also prohibited and is the producer’s responsibility. In general, producers should ask themselves if they are recording where there may be a presumption of privacy (such as using a camera to shoot into someone’s window or record a private conversation).
4. Indecency/Obscenity. Because of federal laws protecting free speech on PEG channels (47 U.S.C.A. §531), BCTV cannot prohibit indecent material, but can schedule programming identified by producers as containing adult material (excessively violent material, excessive adult language, nudity or sexually explicit material) during “safe harbor” hours between 11 PM and 4 AM. Federal law allows for the prohibition of any program meeting the federal definition of obscenity (see www.fcc.gov), which is designed to identify hard-core pornography.
5. Hate speech. Federal law protects hate speech as a form of free speech – as the Supreme Court has held, “if there is to be free speech, it must be free for speech that we abhor and hate as well as for speech that we find tolerable and congenial” (1966). BCTV policies require us to schedule these programs with the same frequency as similar ones of the same length. When we receive complaints about controversial programming, we offer our training and equipment so that all views can be heard.
6. Copyright/Releases. BCTV requires the producer to obtain all necessary releases, clearances and permissions prior to broadcast. The two most critical pieces are copyright and talent release.
a. Copyright is ownership of original video or music, or the “synchronization” of the two, and the “mechanical license” to record the image.
b. For talent releases, the two most common situations for BCTV producers are 1) getting a performer's permission to record and 2) getting parental permission for recording a performance. Many local organizations who deal with children have their own media releases on file, which makes it easy. Check with organizers to make sure that there isn’t a child custody issue that might affect the safety of a child if his/her location was exposed by being on BCTV. Click here for Authorization and Video Release Form.
View the complete BCTV Policies and Procedures manual.