Charity appeal rules

08 August 2011

Over the years TV and radio have played a major part in raising millions of pounds for charitable causes.

With audiences potentially running into millions, these appeals are an ideal way for charities to raise funds for their good causes from as many people as possible.

Broadcast charity appeals can take different forms - ranging from a short advertisement appealing for donations to longer programme-like material, where presenters ask the audience for donations for one or more charities.

You might see or hear more of these kinds of appeals if a disaster occurs in a part of the world and an emergency appeal is set up to raise funds to provide relief.

Certain times of the year are linked with charity appeals too - for example, in the holy month of Ramadan, which falls in August this year, many community charities, organisations and Mosques traditionally benefit from the generosity of Muslim people.

Ofcom has a number of rules in the Broadcasting Code to protect viewers and listeners.

Legitimate charities

A TV or radio station must be confident that a charity appealing on its channel is legitimate and will use the audience's donations responsibly. If Ofcom was to investigate a charity appeal, the broadcaster would have to demonstrate to Ofcom what it's done to check this.

One way for a TV or radio station to ensure that an organisation appealing on the channel is legitimate and responsible is to check whether it's registered with the Charity Commission. The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charitable activity in England and Wales.

The Charity Commission has its own rules about how charities operate and use donations. You can find more information about its rules, and in particular, safer giving during Ramadan, here.

If an organisation is not registered with the Charity Commission, the TV or radio station still has to check for evidence that the organisation is bona fide.

Broadcasters must also ensure that the organisation is not prohibited from advertising on TV. Details of prohibited advertisers can be found in the BCAP Code .

Advertising breaks on TV

TV stations can only charge for a charity appeal if it is shown during the 12 minutes of advertising the channel is allowed to screen each hour.

If a charity appeal is shown in a programme, or a whole programme is devoted to raising funds for a charity, TV stations cannot charge the charity for the airtime.

Also, the TV station cannot make 'conditional' arrangements. This means that, for example, a TV station cannot show an appeal as a programme free of charge to the charity, but then require the charity to pay for production costs or administration fees.

I'm a viewer or listener, and I'm worried a charity appeal is breaking your rules - what can I do?

If you have any concerns about a particular appeal broadcast on TV or radio you can make a complaint to Ofcom here.

You must provide: the name of the channel; the date and the time of the broadcast; and details about your concerns.