Today, Ofcom issued a statement to broadcasters in relation to 'synthetic media' (including deepfakes) in broadcast programming.

“Synthetic media” is an umbrella term for video, image, text, or voice that has been generated in whole or in part by artificial intelligence algorithms. 

Ofcom understands that synthetic media has become increasingly prevalent online and has also been used in virtual reality, augmented reality, gaming, and other forms of digital media. It is also used in marketing, advertising, and the entertainment industry, including in filmmaking and broadcasting.

However, as this type of technology continues to grow and evolve at a rapid rate, Ofcom is cognisant that synthetic media is likely to become more prevalent in broadcast content. While there are some benefits of the technology (to content creators, broadcasters and audiences), there are also risks and challenges.

Ofcom gives as an example, the risk that 'DeepFake' software can replace a person in an existing image or video with someone else’s likeness with realistic results. Other challenges outlined by Ofcom include:

  • Misinformation and disinformation: synthetic media could be used to create fake news, propaganda and other forms of disinformation that can spread quickly online leading to challenges for broadcast journalists in authenticating footage from online sources. 
  • Trust and credibility degradation: with the rise of deepfakes and other synthetic media, audiences may find it difficult to trust the authenticity of content and audiences could potentially be harmed if it is not apparent they are watching footage that is ‘Deepfake’. 
  • Fairness and Privacy: audiences could mistake ‘Deepfake’ footage of a real person in a way that could result in unfairness to them or potentially unwarrantably infringe their privacy. 

Ofcom is confident that the existing rules within the Broadcasting Code will protect audiences from the potential harms that might arise through the use of synthetic media, including the following sections of the Broadcasting Code:

  • Section Two (Harm and Offence): rules to protect audiences from potential harm and offence and from material which may be materially misleading (Rules 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3); 
  • Section Five (due impartiality and due accuracy): ensures news content is reported with due accuracy (Rule 5.1); 
  • Section Seven (Fairness): includes a set of practices which ensure that broadcasters avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes;
  • Section Eight (privacy): includes a set of practices which ensure that broadcasters avoid any unwarranted infringement of privacy in programmes and in connection with obtaining material included in programmes. 

Ofcom emphasises that it is fundamental that both broadcasters and audiences can explore new and emerging technologies - including synthetic media - as they become an increasing part of our daily lives. However, Ofcom reminds all its licensees of their ongoing responsibility to comply with the Broadcasting Code in order to protect audiences from harm and maintain the high levels of trust in broadcast news as well as to ensure individuals and organisations are not treated unfairly and/or their privacy is not unwarrantably infringed. 

Ofcom therefore advises all licensees to consider carefully whether their compliance processes need to be adapted or developed to account for the potential risks involved in the use of synthetic media technologies to create broadcast content. 

For real?

The full statement can be accessed here: Note to Broadcasters - Synthetic media (including deepfakes) (