Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 16th September 2020.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with media regulators, including Ofcom and IPSO, on the reporting of suicide; what assessment they have made of the impact of reporting relating to assisted suicide; and what plans they have to review their guidance to ensure that public broadcasters include details of the Samaritans or other support services when reporting on suicide and assisted suicide stories.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Every suicide is a tragedy which has a devastating and enduring impact on families and communities. The Government is taking action in this area, including launching the first Cross-Government Suicide Prevention Strategy, which sets out an ambitious programme across national and local government and the NHS.

The Government does not review editorial content, as broadcast regulation is a matter for Ofcom. Ofcom has the power to set rules in its Broadcasting Code for broadcasters to meet in order to ensure UK audiences are adequately protected from harmful content. Ofcom’s Guidelines, which advise broadcasters on meeting the rules, includes advice on providing specific helplines where a programme has dealt with a particularly sensitive issue.

The government is committed to a free and independent press, and does not, therefore, seek to intervene in the decisions or activities of newspapers or regulators, including IPSO. IPSO’s Editors’ Code of Practice sets out the rules that newspapers and magazines regulated by IPSO have agreed to follow, including on reporting suicide.

In response to COVID-19, the Government announced £9.2 million of additional funding to support mental health charities, including Samaritans and CALM. Samaritans published updated media guidelines resources at the beginning of August and created a new online hub of resources, covering additional topics to help journalists and programme makers further understand the issues surrounding suicidal behaviour and offering practical tips on covering these topics.

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