I work in compliance for a broadcaster and I am often bemused by the actions that other broadcasters take. Compliance is a matter of judgement and I believe it should always involve commen sense. Indeed, my conversations with Ofcom (I used to work there too) have always been characterised by this noble attribute (maybe I have been lucky).
The Ofcom Broadcasting Code is drafted very widely to allow for the interpretation of each rule by broadcasters. This means that programme makers can either make up their own mind about what complies with the Code or ask Ofcom for guidance. Programme makers are by and large highly experienced professionals and usually make expert judgements about compliance based on their knowledge of the Code and sometimes based on specific advice on the interpretation of Code rules from lawyers and compliance experts. This is the nature of broadcasting because the consequence of getting it wrong can lead to a fine from Ofcom.
The podcast mentioned Spooks only. I agree that it seems an over zealous application of the Code rules in this programme to insist that all characters were seatbelts and desist from using mobile phones while driving. It may well be that the producers wanted these scenes to be shot inthe way that they felt was in tune with action within the film. It may be that these scenes were discussed with BBC compliance officers who suggested that seatbelts should be worn and drivers should not use mobile phones while driving. It is also possible that the rationale was that government officials in these scenes should not be portrayed as law breakers. Perhaps those involved in these decisions decided to err on the side of caution about the portrayl of illegallity rather than risk the ire of Ofcom.
The Code allows for editorial justification for acts that would normally be seen as irresponsible. If I was comlying this particular programme I would have taken a common sense view that secret agents in a fantasy drama do the most extraordinary things. They would behave with a wrecklessness in emergencies that many of us would not countenance. They might drive through red lights, mount the kerb and possibly drive the wrong way down a one way street. If they felt it completely necessary to call a colleague on a mobile phone while driving in order to save lives, I would hope that they did so. The alternative would be to find a safe parking space in congested streets and then make the call while parked. Would this delay result in a loss of human life? Only an alternative script would reveal.
In short, I agree that the production of Spooks deprived us all of a good show because bad compliance decisions were taken. I have no idea who was responsible.
I hope the podcast wasn't a general diatribe against compliance. I certainly believe that I contribute to making great shows and helping producers make great telly. I have made shows myself as a producer, director and performer. We all want the best telly and it is a shame when people make the wrong decisions because they are worried about Ofcom might say.