Regina v British Broadcasting Corporation ex parte Pro-life Alliance: HL 15 May 2003

The Alliance was a political party seeking to air its party election broadcast. The appellant broadcasters declined to broadcast the film on the grounds that it was offensive, being a graphical discussion of the processes of abortion.
Held: Freedom of political speech is a freedom of the very highest importance. Article 10 requires that access to an important public medium of communication should not be refused on discriminatory, arbitrary or unreasonable grounds. Prior restraint is seriously inimical to freedom of political communication. The broadcasters were subject to rules requiring them equally to maintaining standards of decency. The two questions were: whether party broadcasts are restricted as to offensive material, and if so whether, the right standard had been applied. The Court of Appeal failed to distinguish the two questions. The court could not rewrite the standard of decency applied by the statute, and the appeal succeeded. (Lord Scott of Foscote dissenting) The rights of others’ within the meaning of Article 10(2) ‘need not be to limited to strictly legal rights the breach of which might sound in damages and is well capable of extending to a recognition of the sense of outrage that might be felt by ordinary members of the public who in the privacy of their homes had switched on the television set and been confronted by gratuitously offensive material.’
Lord Hoffmann said that the power of broadcasting justified restrictions for taste and decency. Article 10 was not engaged: ‘In the present case, that primary right [under Article 10] was not engaged. There was nothing that the Alliance was prevented from doing, It enjoyed the same free speech as every other citizen. By virtue of its entitlement to a [Party Election Broadcast] it had more access to the homes of its fellow citizens that other single-issue groups which could not afford to register as a political party and put up six deposits.
There is no human right to use a television channel . .’
However, Article 10 might be in play if access to broadcasts was unfairly denied: ‘The fact that no one has a right to broadcast on television does not mean that article 10 has no application to such broadcasts. But the nature of the right in each case is different. Instead of being a right not to be prevented from expressing one’s opinions, it becomes a right to fair consideration for being afforded the opportunity to do so; a right not to have one’s access to public media denied on discriminatory, arbitrary or unreasonable grounds.’

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Millett, Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe
[2003] 2 WLR 1403, Times 16-May-2003, [2003] UKHL 23, Gazette 03-Jul-2003, [2004] 1 AC 185, [2003] UKHRR 758, [2003] HRLR 26, [2003] ACD 65, [2003] EMLR 23, [2003] 2 All ER 977, [2003] EMLR 23
House of Lords, Bailii
Broadcasting Act 1990 6(1)(a), European Convention on Human Rights 10(2)
England and Wales
Appeal fromRegina (Quintavalle, Prolife Alliance) v British Broadcasting Corporation CA 14-Mar-2002
The applicant had stood for election, and since there were a sufficient number of candidates for the ProLife Alliance, they sought a party political broadcast. The material they produced was rejected by the respondent and others, as not complying . .
CitedBenjamin, Vanderpool and Gumbs v The Minister of Information and Broadcasting and The Attorney General for Anguilla PC 14-Feb-2001
PC (Anguilla) A first non-religious radio station had been formed, but came to include much criticism of the government. One programme was suspended by the government. The programme makers complained that this . .
CitedVgt Verein Gegen Tierfabriken v Switzerland ECHR 28-Jun-2001
The applicant association dedicated itself to the protection of animals, from animal experiments and industrial animal production. In reaction to television commercials broadcast by the meat industry it prepared a TV advertisement contrasting the . .
CitedAssociated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation CA 10-Nov-1947
Administrative Discretion to be Used Reasonably
The applicant challenged the manner of decision making as to the conditions which had been attached to its licence to open the cinema on Sundays. It had not been allowed to admit children under 15 years of age. The statute provided no appeal . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for Defence Ex Parte Smith; Regina v Same Ex Parte Grady Etc CA 6-Nov-1995
A ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces was not irrational, and the challenge to the ban failed. The greater the policy content of a decision, and the more remote the subject matter of a decision from ordinary judicial experience, the more . .
CitedSmith and Grady v The United Kingdom ECHR 27-Sep-1999
The United Kingdom’s ban on homosexuals within the armed forces was a breach of the applicants’ right to respect for their private and family life. Applicants had also been denied an effective remedy under the Convention. The investigations into . .
CitedDe Freitas v The Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Lands and Housing and others PC 30-Jun-1998
(Antigua and Barbuda) The applicant was employed as a civil servant. He joined a demonstration alleging corruption in a minister. It was alleged he had infringed his duties as a civil servant, and he replied that the constitution allowed him to . .
CitedRegina (Daly) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 23-May-2001
A prison policy requiring prisoners not to be present when their property was searched and their mail was examined was unlawful. The policy had been introduced after failures in search procedures where officers had been intimidated by the presence . .
CitedRegina v Shayler HL 21-Mar-2002
The defendant had been a member of the security services. On becoming employed, and upon leaving, he had agreed to keep secret those matters disclosed to him. He had broken those agreements and was being prosecuted. He sought a decision that the . .
CitedSecretary of State for the Home Department v International Transport Roth Gmbh and others CA 22-Feb-2002
The Appellant had introduced a system of fining lorry drivers returning to the UK with illegal immigrants hiding away in their trucks. The rules had been found to be in breach of European law and an interference with their human rights. The . .
CitedSporrong and Lonnroth v Sweden ECHR 23-Sep-1982
Balance of Interests in peaceful enjoyment claim
(Plenary Court) The claimants challenged orders expropriating their properties for redevelopment, and the banning of construction pending redevelopment. The orders remained in place for many years.
Held: Article 1 comprises three distinct . .

Cited by:
CitedBloggs 61, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 18-Jun-2003
The applicant sought review of a decision to remove him from a witness protection scheme within the prison. He claimed that having been promised protection, he had a legitimate expectation of protection, having been told he would receive protection . .
CitedGillan and Another, Regina (on the Application of) v Commissioner of the Police for the Metropolis and Another Admn 31-Oct-2003
The applicants challenged by way of judicial review the way they had been stopped and searched under the Act. They attended a demonstration. The search revealed nothing suspicious. General authorisations for such searches had been issued under the . .
CitedNilsen, Regina (on the Application of) v Governor of HMP Full Sutton and Another Admn 19-Dec-2003
The prisoner complained that having written an autobiography, the manuscript materials had been withheld, and that this interfered with his rights of freedom of expression.
Held: Such an action by the prison authorities was not incompatible . .
CitedA v Secretary of State for the Home Department, and X v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 16-Dec-2004
The applicants had been imprisoned and held without trial, being suspected of international terrorism. No criminal charges were intended to be brought. They were foreigners and free to return home if they wished, but feared for their lives if they . .
CitedForbes v Secretary of State for the Home Department QBD 26-Jul-2005
The defendant argued that the 2003 Act was in breach of his article 8 rights. He had been registered as a sex offender, but the offence for which he had been convicted involved no proof of intention.
Held: The claimant having brought the . .
CitedLangley and others v Liverpool City Council and others CA 11-Oct-2005
Families had challenged the removal of their children into the care of foster parents by the respondents. The family father, who was blind, had taken to driving. The respondents appealed findings that they had acted unlawfully and in breach of the . .
CitedSecretary of State for Work and Pensions v M HL 8-Mar-2006
The respondent’s child lived with the estranged father for most of each week. She was obliged to contribute child support. She now lived with a woman, and complained that because her relationship was homosexual, she had been asked to pay more than . .
CitedForbes v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 11-Jul-2006
The defendant had been placed on the sex offenders’ register on conviction for fraudulent evasion of prohibitions on importing goods, by importing indecent photographs of children. He had maintained that he had not known of the exact nature of the . .
CitedTweed v Parades Commission for Northern Ireland HL 13-Dec-2006
(Northern Ireland) The applicant sought judicial review of a decision not to disclose documents held by the respondent to him saying that the refusal was disproportionate and infringed his human rights. The respondents said that the documents were . .
CitedConnolly v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 15-Feb-2007
The defendant appealed against her conviction under the Act for having sent indecent or grossly offensive material through the post in the form of pictures of an aborted foetus sent to pharmacists. She denied that they were offensive, or that she . .
CitedSomerville v Scottish Ministers HL 24-Oct-2007
The claimants complained of their segregation while in prison. Several preliminary questions were to be decided: whether damages might be payable for breach of a Convention Right; wheher the act of a prison governor was the act of the executive; . .
CitedIn re P and Others, (Adoption: Unmarried couple) (Northern Ireland); In re G HL 18-Jun-2008
The applicants complained that as an unmarried couple they had been excluded from consideration as adopters.
Held: Northern Ireland legislation had not moved in the same way as it had for other jurisdictions within the UK. The greater . .
CitedMohamed, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 4) Admn 4-Feb-2009
In an earlier judgment, redactions had been made relating to reports by the US government of its treatment of the claimant when held by them at Guantanamo bay. The claimant said he had been tortured and sought the documents to support his defence of . .
CitedBritish Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Ahmad Admn 11-Jan-2012
The BBC wished to interview the prisoner who had been detained pending extradition to the US since 2004, and now challenged decision to refuse the interview.
Held: The claim succeeded. The decision was quashed and must be retaken. If ever any . .
CitedCore Issues Trust v Transport for London Admn 22-Mar-2013
The claimant sought judicial review of the decision made by TfL not to allow an advertisement on behalf of the Trust to appear on the outside of its buses. It was to read: ‘NOT GAY! EX-GAY, POST-GAY AND PROUD. GET OVER IT!’. The decision was said to . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Media, Elections, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.182053