Code of Ethical Practice for broadcasters published by the Media Council of Tanzania.
RATIONALE FOR MEDIA CODES OF ETHICS PRACTICE
1.0 Media practice is a profession with various trades that use skills, knowledge and orientation to serve society as expected, and hence the need for ethical practice. Ethics is based on the assumption that our society has morals. Morality is behavior and actions that are guided by generally accepted human values and responsibilities. Media content is determined by individuals, but guided by their perception of what is right or wrong given the circumstances. Social, political and economic forces that are operating at that material time heavily influence their decisions. The value and decisions of media workers are based on life experiences, education and interactions with others in various social groups. These factors generate the guidelines we call codes of ethics. These codes do set the minimum standards that are acceptable in society in performing a certain task. It is against these standards that conduct can be measured and evaluated.
2.0 Standards are set internally. In a democracy and self-managing social sector, standards are not described by courts, executive decrees or the legislature (laws/acts). That is why in most countries there are bodies formed by the industry and independent of government that set-up the codes and administer them. In non-democratic states governments set up these bodies. In Tanzania, the media refused to have a body imposed on them and instead the industry established the Media Council of Tanzania in 1995 and mandated it to enforce the code(s) of ethics, with the following aims:
a) To protect the public which consumes the services and products of the media from any irresponsible, anti social or propaganda use of the media;
b) To enable the public enjoy their basic rights especially that of information;
c) To protect media practitioners from being forced to act in ways that are irresponsible, humiliating or in any manner contrary to the dictates of their consciences;
d) To keep open all channels of communication inside the industry and within the public sphere;
e) To ensure that the public gets information needed in self-governing society; and to ensure that ordinary people can always register their opinion through the media;
f) To help practitioners understand principles and values that give the profession credibility;
Broadcasting embraces the trades of presenters, camera crews, script writers, sound recorders, programme producers, editors and communicators working in radio, television and independent information video production.
The relevant law has spelled out medium obligations and owners should oblige. The Broadcasting Services Act No. 6 of 1993 Part IV – 13 (3) requires every person holding a broadcasting license:
– To present all news in a factually accurate, impartial and non-partisan manner:
– To present current affairs in a balanced, clear, factual, accurate and impartial manner;
– To encourage the development of Tanzanian and African expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Tanzanian and African attitudes, opinion, ideas, values and artistic creativity by displaying Tanzanian and African cultures and entertainment programmes;
– To serve the needs and interests and reflect the circumstances and aspirations of Tanzanian men, women and children in democratic Tanzania and Africa;
– To provide programming that caters for culture, arts, sports and education pertaining to Tanzania and Africa;
– To disclose the name of the producer of every programme at the end of the transmission of a programme;
– To limit advertisements to a maximum of 30 percent of the total daily broadcasting time;
– To respect copyright and neighbouring rights obligations in respect of any broadcast material
To be able to fulfil the above obligations ethically, broad¬casters do the following:
Make clear the nature and aim of the programme to all part¬ies involved: the producer, outside contributors and the audience;
Never deceive mislead or misrepresent outside contri¬bu¬tors during or after making the programme. They should be told what the programme is all about, its duration, whether live or recorded, the nature and scope of questions, the interviewer/moderator, whether there is a fee, and how their expenses are to be met.
Explain to the audience why a particular contribution is missing, especially if the other side has refused to take part or give information. Say it in such a way that is fair to the absentee;
Give an opportunity to respond to those alleged with incompetence or inefficiencies that are damaging to the individual or an organisation;
Confront potential interviewees without notice (door stepping) only if the interviewee has failed or is known to have a character of refusing to respond to repeated requests on unreasonable grounds and the issue is of high public interest;
Reply to complaints by listeners / viewers, preferably on the air too, by instituting a programme for that purpose or within the formats complained about. Handle all complaints in a serious manner.
Never rely on one source when dealing with secondary sources. Check and check again;
Always admit mistakes and correct it promptly and clearly;
The language must be fair and accurate, avoiding exaggerated expressions. The language must be value free and objective;
In reporting statistics, care should be taken to put them into the valid context, and must all the time be attributed;
Accidents, disasters and other disturbances call for balance, accuracy and sensitivity in order to avoid causing unnecessary anxiety and distress. Emphasis should be on factual information concerning names, time, place, route or any known identification to narrow the area and people to be concerned;
Live coverage of these events calls for care to avoid alarm. Horror should not be exploited, although it needs to be reported. Camera work should be thoughtful, avoiding unnecessary close – ups of repellent scenes.
Loss of life reports on accidents must be checked and attributed.
Archive and library material used to illustrate a current event must be clearly identified to avoid misleading the audience about what they are hearing and seeing. Never use material of one event to illustrate another event. If there is need, then avoid shots that have identifiable persons, because they may have died since the picture was taken;
Observe embargoes imposed by organisations;
Recorded programs or repeats must be re-checked to make sure the information is up-to-date. If not, edit out or a prior announcement is necessary.
Anonymity should not be given to people who are avoiding justice. Where it is necessary to shield them then let it be effective-both picture and sound.
National and Regional services must cater for people of all ages, beliefs, colour, race, ability sexuality and gender Programmes must ensure that all significant activities and trends are featured, reported, portrayed and represented and that all views are accorded due weight.
Reporters may express professional judgement but not personal opinion. Such judgements are best offered by authoritative and experienced correspondents or commentators, backed by presented evidence.
In dealing with the powerful, the relationship should always be professional and never adversarial and hostile. Cross examination should be firm and courteous, with a uniformity of tone in the questioning throughout;
During emergencies or war, observance should be given to questions of national security. Matters involving risk and loss of life need sensitivity to national mood and feeling.
Personal view programmes must be accurate and fair. Opposing view points must be presented. Audiences should be made to know that they listening/viewing a particular viewpoint.
It is not appropriate for regular broadcast personalities in news and public policy related programmes to present personal view programmes on controversial matters.
Living people or controversial situations portrayed realistically through drama must be accurate to do justice to the facts.
Whether used as a news sound bite or asking questions to get opinion or telling a story, the interviews must have a clear and specific journalistic purpose achievable within the given time;
When a testing interview becomes emotionally charged, the emotion should come from the interviewee, not the interviewer;
Interviewers should appear tough-minded, sharp, skeptical and informed but not partial, committed or emotionally attached to one side of an argument.
Interviewees should know why they are being interviewed, the subjects they are going to be asked about, the context of the programme and the part they will play. It is not proper to submit actual questions in advance. In case an interviewee insists to have the questions in advance. In case an interviewee insists to have the questions, then mention must be made of this fact for the audience to know;
Interviews are searching and to the point. Have to be well mannered, not aggressive, or rude, whatever the provocation. Questions that disorientate the interviewee are not allowed. The tone and approach to ordinary people, has to be appropriate;
Interruption in an interview has to come naturally, after the point has been made, otherwise an interruption in the middle of a word or sentence may distract and seem discourteous;
Evasion by powerful people should be exposed by politely and coolly repeating the question.
Respect the privacy of individuals and recognise that intrusions have to be justified by serving a higher public good;
The public has right to have facts that bear upon the ability or the suitability of public figures to perform their duties;
The use of concealed recording equipment, long-range listening devices and telephoto lenses to produce material for broadcasting is not permitted;
In public places, recordings can be made, but must be open and seen. Only where there is a safety problem can one hide the instruments for recording;
Never plant a recording device on private property without permission of the owner, unless for the purpose of gaining evidence of serious crime, or anti-social behaviour;
Some “public places” like railway stations, shops, public transport, and others have owners. Permission from the owners, managers or their agents must be necessary before filming or recording;
Never record a telephone conversation without permission of one of the parties;
Where we record surreptitiously for the purpose of exposing antisocial behaviour or criminal activity, we must take care to protect the reputation of innocent people who may be caught in the recording. Must obscure their identity or make their innocence clear;
In depicting disasters and tragic events there is need to emphasise the importance of compassion. Coverage should not add to the distress of the people who already know their loss;
People in a state of distress must not be put under any pressure to provide interviews against their wishes;
Filming or recording of people who are extremely distressed must not be carried out in such a way as to increase their suffering. Thoughtless questions cause distress and do damage;
Use of library material depicting suffering, pain, violence or grief becomes less defensible as the original event passes into history. Avoid needless or repeated use of traumatically library material especially if it features identifiable people;
As far as reasonably possible, next-of-kin should not learn of the death of a relative from a programme. Leaving out mention of names, unless we are satisfied that next-of-kin have been told;
Funerals are covered only with the permission of the family. Where covered, then it is with sensitivity, and should avoid intrusive conduct, such as close camera shots of people who are grieving;
In interviewing children, parental or school authority and guidance should be sought.
Police appeals for information on crime are broadcast free of charge;
When criminals are interviewed, they should not be allowed to glamorise their wrongdoing nor give details of crimes that could be copied. Neither should they be remunerated for the interview;
All illegal activities, as a rule, should not be covered, unless it is for high public interest;
Families of criminals should not be implicated in wrong-doing or guilty because of association;
Presence of cameras in front of demonstrators influences their behaviour. Where it is seen to inflame their behaviour, crews should withdraw at once;
Coverage of demonstrations should offer a comprehensive and impartial view;
Reports of proceedings in youth courts should leave out the names and addresses of young people below the age defined for children;
Any promise of confidentiality given to sources must be honoured;
If asked to reveal the identify of a source, it may be possible to get the sources agreement. Courts do not recognise the sanctity of journalistic sources, and failure to disclose information to a court can result in punishment;
Untransmitted material should not be shown to anyone not concerned;
Usually requests of transmitted material are granted, provided a charge is made to cover costs;
If a station receives a telephone warning from people claiming to have planted bombs, it must report the matter immediately to the police; and ask advice whether to make it public or not.
Screen violence, does upset some people, and that in excess, it can be accused of desensitising viewers;
Issue warnings to viewers when factual scenes or drama are to include violent scenes;
The dead should be treated with respect, and not shown unless there are compelling reasons for doing so. Close-ups should be avoided and if justified, then they must not be lingered over. Nor should there be undue concentration on the bloody consequences of an accident or terrorist attack;
As much as possible still pictures should be shown to convey the horrific reality of a situation. Natural sounds can be disturbing as pictures, and should be treated with care;
Particular care must be taken in dealing with scenes in which humans appear to inflict violence on animals;
Acquired programmes need to be double checked in detail prior to transmission to identify any need to edit, to place the programme at an appropriate hour or to issue a warning. All objectionable moments from an acquired programme must be removed by editing;
Violence against women and children can only be shown as victims of violence, and a social vice but not otherwise.
Some viewers and listeners might be susceptible to copying behaviour portrayed in programmes;
In programmes made for children avoid showing actions or techniques, which could lead to dangerous imitation;
Smoking and alcohol drinking in children’s programmes should be avoided;
In reporting suicides, graphical depiction of methods used should be avoided;
Demonstration of illegal drug use, which could be imitated, should be avoided.
Taste and Decency
Matters of bad taste and indecency are avoided, unless broadcast by design;
Context is very important to consider. Scenes might be justified late at might. Sensitivities of children differ from those of adults;
Always broadcast a warning if a programme has material that might be offensive to some people;
Very bad language must not be used in children’s programs;
Bad language is offensive to audiences. Love words should be used with caution;
Offence is often caused by the casual use of names considered holy by believers;
Depiction of sex should not be linked solely or inevitably to the physical attractiveness of the characters involved. Nudity and explicit sex are considered immoral;
Explicit sexual conduct between adults and children should not be depicted;
When sexual subjects feature in news, documentaries and discussion programmes, they must be carefully scheduled and labelled;
Comedy must be well judged, not excessive, not gratuitous, and overly cruel or designed to harm a person or group. We must avoid jokes about physical or mental disability and real life tragedy, which might be extremely painful;
There is need for extra sensitivity when jokes are based upon race, religion, sex and age.
All groups in our society must be portrayed adequately in broadcast programmes, in terms of broadcasters, sources, participation and targeting;
Gender sensitive language should be used as a rule;
People should not be identified by ethnic origin or colour;
Always be sensitive to the rights and dignities of disabled people. Only describe a person in terms of his/her disability if it is relevant;
It is not the business of broadcasters to bring into the open someone’s sexuality.
Any material recorded in parliament should not be used in light entertainment, or fictional or drama programmes, political satire or party political broadcasts. It must always be kept separate from musical, fictional or humorous items;
Opinion polls indicate or suggest what people are saying at the time the fieldwork was done, and never right to say that opinion poll proves or shows;
During the declared campaign period, no candidate should be allowed to take part in programmes to speak about constituency or area matters.
Nothing that might inadvertently help a candidate should be seen or heard in broadcasts, unless the candidates are treated equally;
All political parties taking place in an election have to be given equal time and opportunity to publicise their manifestos.
There is always a possibility of callers overstepping the boundaries in areas as bad language, libel, racism and sexism. It is necessary to brief callers of the need to avoid such behaviour.
The national broadcaster has an obligation to reflect the worship, thought and action of the principal religious traditions of the nation, which are mainly Moslem and Christian;
Contributors/preachers in religious programmes should not promote their point of view by preying upon people’s fears and anxieties, or by improper exploitation of the susceptibilities of the audience. They should never attack other denominations and faiths;
Claims by preachers of powers to heal, including the performance of exorcism, or trying to promote an interest in the occult should not be allowed for broadcast.
Pictures and sound reports can be lifted from other broad¬cas¬ters and used as a news item, provided the primary commentary is removed and replaced by narration and credit is given to the original recorder.