Section 16: External Relationships and Financing Part A - Guidelines for All Editorial External Relationships

Section 16.3 Part A

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16.3.1 Before entering into an external relationship with the purpose of producing editorial content, we must ensure that:

  • the third party is appropriate
  • the relationship is appropriate given the editorial content to be produced
  • the BBC will maintain independent editorial control over its editorial content.

Appropriateness: third party

16.3.2 An assessment must be made of the third party’s objectives and aims, its activities, its financial soundness, who funds or sponsors the organisation and whether the organisation has been involved in any controversy which could have a material negative effect on the BBC’s reputation.

16.3.3 We must be satisfied that the external editorial relationship will not conflict with the values and standards in the BBC Editorial Guidelines.

A senior editorial figure [13] must take a decision in light of the assessments on the appropriateness of the external relationship.

There should be assessments at the start of further projects or series of content with the same organisation to ensure that nothing has changed that could affect the appropriateness of the external relationship from continuing. We should also consider whether the cumulative effect of extending it is appropriate.

Appropriateness: editorial content

16.3.4 We must not enter into an external relationship with other parties that would create a conflict of interest which could compromise the BBC’s impartiality, editorial integrity or independence.

Appropriateness: editorial control

16.3.5 The BBC must have independent editorial control over everything it produces, broadcasts or publishes and must have the right to reject material supplied by any third party. Content created by third parties for the BBC must meet the standards in the Editorial Guidelines. The BBC must always retain the right to edit as it sees fit.

External relationships should normally fit with and be appropriate for the editorial remit and audience expectation of the service. Editorial content must not be created solely to provide an opportunity for a commercial relationship, including, but not limited to, advertising, sponsorship or external funding.

The BBC must not accept money or other valuable consideration in exchange for editorial coverage, links, credits or publicity by the BBC. However, Commercial Services may make product placement arrangements.

(See Section 14 Independence from External Interests: 14.3.27-14.3.36)

We should normally approve any public reference to the BBC or to a relationship with the BBC which is made by the third party or parties in the external relationship.

16.3.6 For transparency, production should keep records of any financing from an outside organisation and retain details of assessments conducted.

Editorial Partnerships

For the meaning of an editorial partnership see Meanings above.

(See Section 16 External Relationships and Financing: 16.1)

16.3.7 The BBC seeks to offer public value by working in partnership with others. We agree common aspirations and ambition with our partners in order to achieve both mutual benefit and benefit for our audiences.

The partnership may involve complementary activities, such as a gallery mounting an exhibition on the same theme as a BBC programme. In other cases the partner and the BBC may jointly fund an off-air activity.

The partnerships must be editorially justified and the partner selected according to editorially appropriate criteria.

16.3.8 Our partnerships should be fair and beneficial to all organisations in the partnership. However, an editorial partnership must not be limited to the BBC covering a partner’s activities or promoting their campaigns and we must not promote them, their products, services or trade marks relating to activities outside of the partnership.

16.3.9 Editorial partners should be given due attribution and recognition, including in the branding and promotion of the output and services created or distributed.

(See Section 14 Independence from External Interests: 14.3.21-14.3.22)

Credits for partners must be appropriate and editorially justified.

(See Guidance: Crediting and Labelling External Relationships)

16.3.10 We should not enter into editorial partnerships with:

  • political parties and political organisations
  • lobby groups
  • tobacco firms or those mainly known for tobacco-related products
  • organisations involved in adult products or services
  • weapons manufacturers, or
  • on UK Public Services, with alcoholic drinks manufacturers or suppliers.

[13] The senior editorial figure should be not lower than head of department.

Mandatory Referral

The BBC should not normally enter into a partnership with a foreign government. Any proposal to do so must be referred to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.

We should not be used by a government or campaign group initiative to launch or appear to endorse a government, political party or campaign group policy.

Relationships with UK government departments, religious organisations, charities, trusts, foundations and non-governmental organisations which undertake lobbying should not compromise the BBC’s impartiality. Sponsored material must also not be broadcast or published.

(See Section 4 Impartiality: 4.3.17-4.3.18)

Partnerships on Public Services

16.3.11 On Public Services we must seek to enter into partnerships, particularly in the creative economy, where to do so would be in the public interest, and with a wide range of organisations.

We may share non-broadcast costs for editorial partnerships with suitable bodies such as arts and cultural bodies, charitable institutions, trusts or foundations and organisations including local authorities and government agencies where editorially justified. All partnerships must conform to the Statement of Policy on Use of Alternative Finance in BBC Content [14].

[14] Statement of Policy on Use of Alternative Finance in BBC Content (Clause 49 (4) of the BBC Framework Agreement 2016).

Mandatory Referral

Any proposal for a Public Service editorial partnership with a commercial organisation must be referred to Editorial Policy who will consider whether:

  • the partnership would compromise the BBC’s impartiality, editorial integrity or independence
  • the partnership conforms to the Statement of Policy [15].

[15] Statement of Policy on Use of Alternative Finance in BBC Content (Clause 49 (4) of the BBC Framework Agreement 2016).

A UK Public Service editorial partnership must not give the impression that the service is sponsored.

Joint Editorial Initiatives

For the meaning of a joint editorial initiative see Meanings.

(See Section 16 External Relationships and Financing: 16.1)

16.3.12 When undertaking a joint editorial initiative:

  • the BBC must retain independent editorial control of any element of the project that refers to it
  • the initiative must not be used to promote the outside body
  • the BBC should not link directly to any page of the third party’s site whose main purpose is to promote or sell any commercial product or service.

The BBC and the organisation may carry out other activities in relation to the project as well as producing content.

Co-Productions

For the meaning of a co-production see Meanings.

(See Section 16 External Relationships and Financing: 16.1)

16.3.13 A co-producer may have involvement with the editorial content and it may also be a partner. On Public Services credits for co-producers must be in line with the guidance on crediting and labelling external relationships.

(See Guidance: Crediting and Labelling External Relationships)

Distribution

For the meaning of distribution see Meanings.

(See Section 16 External Relationships and Financing: 16.1)

16.3.14 When distributing its content the BBC must retain independent editorial control of the content.

The BBC must be able promptly to remove or block its content, and platforms must not edit BBC content or metadata unless otherwise agreed.

Users should be able to easily identify which content on a platform is provided by the BBC.

16.3.15 UK Public Service content and services distributed within the UK must be available free of advertising and sponsorship. No advertising or sponsorship, (including pre-roll advertisements) may be inserted into or placed adjacent to BBC content or services in a manner that could be interpreted as a BBC endorsement for or a connection with a product, service or cause.

UK Public Services distributed within the UK must meet the BBC Distribution Policy.

16.3.16 On other services, the Advertising and Sponsorship Guidelines for BBC Commercial Services apply.

(See Advertising and Sponsorship Guidelines for BBC Commercial Services)

Live Streams from Third Parties

16.3.17 We should maintain editorial control of a live stream on any of our services.

The risk of allowing a third party’s live output to appear on a BBC service must be assessed before we proceed. We should take account of the source of the live stream, the nature of the content and the format.

We should not normally link to or embed live streams or any other form of continuous live broadcasting from personal or unverified social accounts. On Public Services we should not normally link to or embed live streams from a sponsor of a third-party event.

(See Section 16: External Relationships and Financing: 16.3.38)

Mandatory Referral

16.3.18 Any proposal to broadcast or embed a third party’s live stream must be referred to a senior editorial figure or, for independent production companies, to the commissioning editor.

 

Approval will only be given if:

  • it would not be possible for the BBC to obtain the content itself, due to its exclusive nature and/or the circumstances in which it was being live streamed
  • it would meet the Editorial Guidelines on privacy, harm and offence and undue prominence
  • on Public Services the content would not contain any reference to its sponsor, or their products, services or trade marks.
Mandatory Referral

Any proposal to link to or embed a live stream from the sponsor of a third-party event must also be referred to Editorial Policy who will consider whether the proposal would compromise the BBC’s impartiality, editorial integrity or independence.

(See Section 7 Privacy: 7.3.29-7.3.33, Section 14 Independence from External Interests: 14.3.8, and Section 17 Competitions, Votes and Interactivity: 17.3.53)

Location and Production Incentives

16.3.19 Location and production incentives are often offered by film councils or governmental or regional organisations around the world for editorial content and are a permitted exception under Clause 49 of the Framework Agreement [16].

Any conditions made by the funder must not compromise the BBC’s impartiality, editorial integrity or independence.

The source of the incentive must not have an interest in the content that would create a conflict if its funds were accepted [17].

[16] Broadcasting: An Agreement Between Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the British Broadcasting Corporation December 2016.

[17] Agreeing Alternative Funding Guidance from Commercial Rights and Business Affairs: available on Gateway for BBC staff or via commissioning editors for independent producers.

Third-Party Advertising and the BBC Brand

16.3.20 The BBC brand must not be used to endorse other organisations. We can achieve this by ensuring that advertising, promotion and press releases by other organisations do not give the impression of BBC endorsement, and advertising does not pass off BBC content.

The BBC name, logos, titles, channel names, programme titles, formats or characters, sets, music or catchphrases should not normally be used by commercial advertisers, except in joint promotions or advertising for licensed BBC products.

If the BBC brand forms part of a product being advertised, it can be referenced within the advertising, as long as the quantity and prominence of references to the BBC across the campaign, is proportionate to the BBC’s involvement in the product.

Testimonials

16.3.21 The BBC may receive requests from past or current suppliers for permission to describe their relationship with the BBC in their promotional materials to demonstrate the goods or services that they have provided.

Such requests will normally be driven by the desire of suppliers to signal that they have worked with the BBC. There is a risk, however, that such references may be misleading or may imply BBC endorsement of that supplier. Contracts with suppliers should, therefore, normally include a clause which requires the supplier to seek BBC permission for all promotional materials which reference its relationship with the BBC.

16.3.22 Permission to enable a supplier to reference their relationship with the BBC may be granted as long as:

  • the BBC is a satisfied customer of the supplier’s goods or services
  • the BBC has agreed in advance to, and retains independent editorial control over, such references, and
  • references to the BBC are factual, accurate, not misleading with respect to the nature and scope of the relationship and do not imply BBC endorsement of any organisation.

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