Complaining to the BBC about reports of suicide

The BBC has a set of editorial guidelines here. One section of those guidelines covers harm and offence. When the BBC reports on a death by suicide I sometimes want to point out that the report has the potential to cause harm. Sometimes details of method are given, or clear details of location are given. We know (from interviewing survivors of attempted suicide) that these details significantly increase risk of completed suicide.

The way to let the BBC know about this is to make a complaint.

Unfortunately, the online complaints form has a drop-down selection menu, and that menu includes “offence”, but does not include “harm”.

I do not care about offence. I want the BBC to be free to offend me as much as it wants. I never make a complaint about offence. Because the editorial guidelines talk about “harm and offence” I use that selection. But that frames the complaint in the wrong way. The person receiving the complaint will always say “The BBC broadcasts a wide variety of content and some people are always going to be offended by some of it” — even if the first line of the complaint is “I do not care about offence, I am not complaining about offence. I am complaining about harm, as per section 5 of the BBC editorial guidelines”.

The BBC should probably change the complaints form.

They should include a new category for “harm”. Ideally, they’d keep it separate from “offence”.