General RTÉ Guidelines

RTÉ Programme Standards And Guidelines 2008 (PDF)

Caighdeáin Agus Treoirlínte Clár RTÉ 2008 (PDF)


Children and Broadcasting

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Click here to download the PDF (Gaeilge)

Freedom of Information Acts (FOI)

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Children and Broadcasting

The best service RTÉ can provide for children and young people is to make and broadcast programming that reflects their lives, concerns and interests. It follows, therefore, that children will frequently be involved in programmes in a number of ways. They are listeners to and viewers of programmes, they participate in programmes (mostly in programmes made for children, but also in factual and news programmes), they are portrayed in programmes, and they are sometimes employed to work on programmes.

The involvement of children with RTÉ television and radio requires special attention so as to provide for their protection and safety. When RTÉ engages with children, RTÉ must, as broadcasters, treat their physical, mental and emotional health as being of paramount importance. This section on children and Broadcasting cannot be a complete guide to good practice in every situation, nor necessarily the last word on the matters to which they refer. Context, personalities, attitudes will all change in different circumstances. What has meaning in a particular situation is the common sense interpretation of a well-informed programme-maker who has the child’s best interests at heart.

For the purpose of these guidelines, unless where otherwise stated, a ‘child’ should be regarded as a person aged 15 years or under. A ‘young person’ is someone who is aged 16 or 17 years. Note that the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland regards all members of the audience under 18 as children, though there is an acknowledgement that older children are more sophisticated in their understanding and usage of the media.

The Watershed

Material unsuitable for children must not be broadcast at times when large numbers of children may be expected to be watching or listening. However, RTÉ accepts that even though some children are always likely to be in the audience, there should be a wide range of programmes appropriate for adults. The necessary compromise is a ‘family viewing’ policy on television which assumes a progressive decline throughout the evening in the proportion of children present in the audience. It requires a similar progression in the successive programmes scheduled from early evening onwards; the earlier in the evening the more suitable, the later in the evening, the less suitable. On television the 7-9pm period is viewed as family viewing, i.e. parents and children are likely to be watching together and parents may be required to exercise some control over their children’s viewing and may be required to explain or contextualise some matters on screen to their children. In the period post 9pm (the Watershed) there is a progressive expectation that there may be programming unsuitable for children broadcast on television. Programmes which run through the watershed should be treated as pre-watershed. Programmes which are definitely unsuitable for children should be scheduled well after the beginning of the watershed.

The concept of the watershed does not apply to radio. On radio the likely composition of the audience and the audience’s expectations must be taken into account when material of a more adult nature is broadcast. Particular care must be taken during day time when children are on school holidays.

Children and Young Persons in Factual Programmes, Current Affairs Programmes and News

Producers and journalists should consider carefully the impact of the programme/news item on the child involved in it – both in the way it is made and any possible impact it may have when broadcast. This applies whether or not they have secured parental consent and/or the child’s consent. Children are often eager to help programme-makers, but may lack judgement about their own immediate or long-term interests. Programme-makers are advised to consult professionals and experts when dealing with children and sensitive subjects, and to put in place support systems to protect children before, during and after the programme process.

When dealing with dangerous or illegal activity among children such as drug-taking or prostitution, it is often advisable for programme teams to be accompanied by an independent agency throughout their contact with the children.

In the course of research, programme-makers may come across situations where they believe the welfare of a child is being endangered by others. In such cases, the child’s interests and safety must take priority and programme-makers should, in consultation with the Managing Directors of News, Television or Radio, consider reporting what they have found to the relevant authority.

Children and the Issue of Consent

The consent of parents or legal guardians should be sought before interviewing children or otherwise involving them in programmes. In a situation where parents are separated consent of both parents must be obtained. It is only in exceptional circumstances that interviewing can take place without this consent. The younger, or more vulnerable the child, and the more sensitive the subject matter, the more likely it is that consent will be essential. On occasion where parental or guardian consent may not be possible it is likely that the identity of the interviewee may need to be obscured. No financial inducements should be offered to parents or guardians to induce them to give consent, although, the legitimate payment of expenses is acceptable.

A child’s own consent should always be sought about being interviewed. The content of the interview and the context should be explained clearly to the child in a language and terms they can understand. A child’s refusal to take part should not be overridden. A child’s ability to give consent depends on the stage of development and degree of understanding the child displays, as well as the child’s age. Programme-makers may wish to consult an appropriate professional or an adult who knows the child, to help them make such judgements.

Where parental consent has been refused, or cannot be obtained, the advice of the Managing Directors of News, Television or Radio must be sought before taking any decision to go ahead. This can normally be justified only if the item is of sufficient public importance and the child’s appearance is absolutely necessary.

The Portrayal and Interviewing of Children

Interviews with children need particular care. Children can be easily led in questioning and are often open to suggestion. Interviewers should be careful about prompting children and should allow them to speak for themselves. Where young people have been involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour, programme-makers should be aware they sometimes exaggerate for affect. Criminal or anti-social behaviour should not go unchallenged. On extremely sensitive subjects, such as abuse or family breakdown, programme-makers should consider consulting a professional with experience of interviewing and counselling children about the best way of approaching interviews and minimising distress.

When factual programmes or news reports feature children involved in illegal or anti­social activity, identification may raise difficult ethical issues. There may be a public interest in identifying the children, but the longer-term interests of the child may argue for anonymity. Parental consent may not be a sufficient reason to identify a child, if the child’s long-term future would be better served by anonymity. Programme-makers should refer such matters to their editorial managers

When recording anti-social or criminal practices carried out by children with the intention of highlighting the practice rather than individuals, the general rule is that individual children will not be identified.

Interviewing children requires care. Children should not be questioned to elicit views of private family matters, or matters likely to be beyond their judgement, or matters more appropriate to adult discussion. Great care should be exercised in interviewing a child in reference to any tragic or harrowing experience, such as a bomb explosion, a tragedy at sea, a car crash, a fire, a domestic tragedy and the like.

Special care should be exercised in the case of programmes likely to attract a young audience in regard to smoking, the taking of alcohol and the use of drugs, so as not to glamorise or promote the acceptability of these habits.

Reporting of Children before the Courts

As an absolute rule, RTÉ should not publish in any programme or news bulletin, the name, address, school attended, picture, or other information which may lead to the identification of any child or young person (under 18 years) appearing in court in a criminal case whether that child is accused of a crime, is a witness in the case or is the victim of the crime or in a family law related case, except where any judge may have requested the media to do so.

In dealing with sexual offences concerning children, news reports or other programmes should be particularly careful not to identify living children who are involved in Garda inquiries or court proceedings, whether as victims, witnesses or defendants. Care must also be taken in identifying deceased children mentioned in court cases as their identity may lead to other people being identified against the wishes of the court. In any report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child, care must be taken to avoid anything that might contribute directly or indirectly to the identification of the child, including naming the accused or indeed, on occasion, the person convicted. In particular, where an accused adult has been identified, the word ‘incest’ must not be used, as this would risk identifying the child.

Children in Care

The Child Care Act 1991 states that no child who has been or is the subject of a care order can be identified. There are exceptional circumstances whereby the provision can be waived by a judge. Legal advice should be sought in these circumstances before any broadcast.

Children in Studio Audiences

Children should normally only be part of a studio audience for a children’s programme and the recording of such programmes should be completed no later than 9pm. Children attending as part of such an audience should be accompanied to the studio by a parent, guardian, teacher or other responsible adult. Tickets for audiences attending such shows should preferably be distributed through schools, youth clubs and the like, or at the request of parents or guardians. Tickets should not normally be issued on a casual basis to children.

No fee should be paid to children for attending as members of a studio audience. Small tokens such as programme merchandise (t-shirts, mugs, pens, etc.) may be given to audience members. In the case of children from a school or youth club or the like, being invited as a studio audience or to participate in the programme, the producer may make reasonable transport arrangements for such participants.

Children should not normally be admitted into the audience for programmes that are not wholly made for children e.g. entertainment shows, talk shows, or other shows being recorded or being broadcast post 9pm. Tickets for such audiences should clearly indicate that children would not be admitted. Exceptions to these rules need the approval of the Managing Director of Television. No child in arms or very young children should be admitted into a studio audience unless for some particular purpose approved of by the Director of Television or the Director of Radio.

Licensing Requirements for Children employed in Broadcasting Activities

  • The Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 brought in additional requirements with regard to children in broadcasting. Under section 3(2), of the Act, broadcasters must apply to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for a licence to employ a child in cultural, artistic, sports or advertising activities. Such employment should not interfere with the child’s attendance at school.
  • Application for the licence should be made at least 21 days before the employment commences.
  • Each child must have his/her own individual licence.
  • The application for each licence must contain the following:
  • Name, address and date of birth of a child;
  • Name, address and contact telephone number of the child’s parent or guardian;
  • Nature of employment, e.g., television broadcast;
  • Details of project (script, if available) on which the child is to be employed;
  • Reasons which justify the employment of a child of the age concerned;
  • Duration of employment;
  • Amount of Night Work if any;
  • Address of principal work location (if different from employer’s address);
  • The amount to be earned by the child;
  • Alternative teaching arrangements (where necessary);
  • Copy of any contract or draft contract relating to the child’s employment
  • On receipt of the application, the Department decides whether or not to grant the licence, in order to assist in determining whether to grant the licence or not the Department may make such enquiries as are considered necessary to enable such a decision to be reached.
  • After the employment is completed the number of hours the child was present at the place of performance and rehearsal must be forwarded to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Young persons (over 16 and under 18) may not work after 22.00 and before 06.00 without authorisation by licence, under S.7(1) of the Act.

Conditions which may apply to such a licence; Under Section 3(2);

1. Children under 7 years of age

A child under 7 years of age may not be present at the place of employment; -for more than 5 hours a day,

-before 09.30 or after 16.30 except in special circumstances,

-may not be present at a place of employment over a total period 250 hours in a 12 month period

-may not rehearse or perform for longer than 2 hours in any one day and must be given an interval for rest after each 30 minutes of rehearsal or performance.

2. Children over 7 and under 13 years of age

A child between 7 and 13 years may not be present at a place of employment for more than 7½ hours a day, or

- Before 09.00 or after 17.00 except in special circumstances.

-May not be present at the place of employment for more than 700 hours in any 12 month period.

-May not rehearse or perform for longer than 3 hours in any one day and must be given an interval for rest after each 45 minutes of rehearsal or performance.

3. Children over 13 years of age

A child over 13 years shall not be present at the place of employment -for more than 8 hours a day, or

- Before 09.00 or after 19.00 except in special circumstances

-may not be present at the place of employment for more than 900 hours in any 12 month period.

-May not rehearse or perform for longer than 4 hours in any one day and must be given an interval for rest after each hour of rehearsal or performance.

4. Night Work

A child may take part in a performance after the latest relevant hour permitted only if it is essential for such a performance to take place after that hour.

5. Meal and Rest Breaks

A child must have a break for a meal of at least 1 hour and a separate 15 minute rest break for each period of 3 ½ hours at the place of employment.

A child may not take place in performance or rehearsals on more than 5 days in any 7 day period (or 6 days in any 7 day period provided such performances or rehearsals do not take place on more than 20 days in any 28 day period)

6. Chaperones

A suitably qualified chaperone must be in charge of the child at all times while the child is present at the place of employment except while the child is in the charge of a parent or guardian.

7. Education

Where the hours of work of the child involves an absence from school of more than one week, appropriate alternative teaching arrangements must be made.

Conditions which may apply to a licence under Section 7(1)

A licence under Section 7(1) allows a young person of 16 or 17 years of age to take part in a performance after 22.00 and before 06.00 only if it is essential for the performance to take place within those hours and on the following conditions;

-The young person must not take part in any other performance or rehearsal until 12 hours have elapsed from the end of his/her part in the performance.

-The young person must be allowed compensatory rest time within the following 7 days.

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Freedom of Information Acts (FOI)

Virtually all Government bodies and agencies and most public bodies are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1997 and the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003. These Acts do not apply to private bodies, commercial companies and most semi-state companies. This legislation was introduced to bring greater transparency and accountability into public life. RTÉ programme-makers are encouraged to use the Freedom of Information processes as part of their journalistic research. Under FOI members of the public are entitled to access a whole range of records created since April 1998. All bodies that come under FOI must have designated FOI officers. These officers generally speaking have four weeks to respond to requests for records. All public bodies are obliged to have Freedom of Information Reference Books which outline what records are accessible and means of access. There is also an appeals process if requests are refused. Most public bodies display prominently on their websites their FOI information. Records may be electronic as well as hardcopy. There are a number of exemptions whereby records may be withheld which apply to all bodies who come under FOI. Further information on the whole process and the exemptions is available on the Information Commissioner’s website (

When RTÉ was brought under the Freedom of Information Act in 2000 the Government introduced a Statutory Instrument (S.I. 115/2000) which provided RTÉ with additional exemptions, designed to protect RTÉ’s journalism and programme-making functions. RTÉ and TG4 are the only sections of the media which are subject to FOI. The two broadcasters are also unique in being both users of the FOI processes and subject to the FOI.

RTÉ Functions Included and Excluded

Schedule 2 of the Statutory Instrument lists the functions of RTÉ which are subject to FOI. They are Management, Administration, Finance, Commercial, Communications and the Making of Contracts. Schedule 3 lists the functions of RTÉ which are exempt from FOI. These are:

1. The gathering and recording in any form of news, information, data, opinions, on or off the record quotes or views from any person or body or source, for journalistic or programme content purposes, whether or not a programme is (a) produced on the basis of such information or (b) is broadcast.

2. The identification of any potential or actual source of information or material for the purpose of programme origination, whether or not such a programme is produced or broadcast and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing shall include the consideration of programme proposal submissions from internal and external sources.

3. The editing and storing of any material recorded by any means, whether written, aural, visual or otherwise, for the purpose of programme origination, whether or not such a programme is produced or broadcast.

4. The process of making editorial decisions concerning programme or programme schedule content which, without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, shall include preliminary programme proposal reviews, programme planning and final pre-transmission editorial decisions.

5. The process of post-transmission internal review and analysis of any programme or schedule of programmes broadcast.

The Explanatory Note at the end of the Statutory Instrument (which is not a legal interpretation) states that RTÉ is only subject to FOI regulations for its non-programme related functions. On the basis of this interpretation programme-makers may be confident that their sources, their research and their editorial processes will not be accessed by people using the FOI process.
RTÉ’s Freedom of Information Reference Book is available on the RTÉ website (

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Making a Complaint to RTÉ

RTÉ exists to provide quality public service programmes on radio and television. The public pays a licence fee to receive these services. The standards we set for ourselves can be found in our RTÉ's Programme Standards and Guidelines 2008 .
If members of the public are of the opinion that a programme or a segment of a programme has breached the Guidelines they are entitled to express their views and complain either in writing or by e-mail.

Initially the complaint should be addressed directly to the programme or the relevant department if known (e.g. News and Current Affairs, Radio etc.). If the department is not known please contact RTÉ Information Office for assistance. Complaints by email should be emailed directly to the programme's email address or to

RTÉ is committed to responding to all reasonable communications concerning programme content. It is RTÉ's policy that all complaints should receive meaningful replies which attempt to address issues raised in complaints.

RTÉ is committed to the following:

All complaints received in writing or by-email shall be replied to by an appropriate member of the production team within 20 working days.

Complainants shall be informed that, if they are not satisfied with the reply they receive, there is a review process available to them within RTÉ. The review will always be carried out by an Editorial Manager senior to the member of staff who replied to the complaint in the first instance.

Making a Complaint About Advertising >> RTÉ Complaints Review

Members of the public who are not satisfied with the reply they receive should write to:

Complaints' Review,
c/o the Freedom of Information Office,
Dublin, 4.
or by e-mail to

Correspondence from Complaints' Review will include information about the public's right of complaint to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission.
Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI)

Members of the public may also complain to the Compliance Committee of the BAI if in their opinion there has been a breach of the Code of Programme Standards, the General Advertising Code and the Code of Children's Advertising. The codes and information on how to complain are available on the BAI website ( or from the following address.

Broadcasting Complaints Commission

The Broadcasting Complaints Commission is administered by The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. The Commission's address is:

Broadcasting Complaints Commission,
2-5 Warrington Place,
Dublin 2.
Telephone: (01) 644 1200

Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland
If you object to a commercial advertisement on RTÉ you may complain to the BCC or to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI). For further information on how to make a complaint through the ASAI please click here. (
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland is the independent self-regulatory body set up and financed by the advertising industry and committed in the public interest to promoting the highest standards of advertising and sales promotion.

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland,
IPC House,
35-39 Shelbourne Road,
Dublin 4.
Phone: (01) 6608766
Fax: (01) 6608113

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