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Regina (ProLife Alliance) v British Broadcasting Corporation

[2003] 2 WLR 1403

Case summary last updated at 05/01/2020 17:59 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Regina (ProLife Alliance) v British Broadcasting Corporation

The BBC, under legislation, has certain standards of non-offensiveness etc and a party who were entitled to an election broadcast submitted a video that would have breached these standards. Therefore the BBC decided not to allow it to be shown. The claimants said that the BBC had curtailed their freedom of expression under article 10 and that the taste and decency rule should be applied in a way compatible with art. 10. HL said that there were reasonable grounds for the BBC to remove the video: it was not discriminatory or arbitrary, since all parties were subject to the same restrictions. The BBC were simply applying the laws set out by parliament, which were not in contravention of article 10. 
Lord Nicholls: Parliament has undertaken an exercise for the balancing of free speech with avoidance of offence and the conclusion they reached precludes the possibility of showing the advert. 
Lord Hoffmann: Parliament has made its decision and is better suited to make such a decision than the courts, since it represents public opinion which has a strong bearing on the decency standards applied. 
Lord Scott (dissenting). Article 10 is engaged and the decency rule is not “necessary in a democratic society” so as to allow a deviation from the ECHR right. However he said that the standards could be applied in a way that preserved article 10, for example by applying them to some programmes (such as dramas) but not others (such as political broadcasts). In a mature democracy people ought to be able to see an opinion that they find offensive without needing to resort to banning it. This patronises voters.

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