Anonymity

The updated Editorial Guidelines include more information around the use of anonymous contributors. We should only offer anonymity when there is editorial justification for doing so. The section on Fairness to Contributors and Consent sets out what our approach should be.

We will need to understand who the contributor wishes to be anonymous from and why, as this will affect what we do to protect their identity. It may be enough to ensure that the contributor is not readily recognisable to the general public, or we may need to ensure they are unidentifiable even to close friends and family – for example if they are an anonymous source or if they have a legal right to anonymity.

When we disguise someone’s identity, as well as not showing their face, we should consider other characteristics that could identify them, such as distinctive clothing, jewellery, hairstyle, tattoos and their gait. If a contributor needs to be anonymous to people who already know them we will need to revoice their contribution – and should explain to audiences that we have done this. We should be aware of the risk of jigsaw identification – where, by including a number of different details about an individual, they may be identifiable.

This section now also contains more information about individuals who have an automatic legal right to anonymity. Further advice is available from Programme Legal Advice or, as the situation may differ in Scotland, from the Legal Director, Scotland.

The section on Accuracy now states that where we have undertaken to make a source anonymous, this undertaking extends to all those in the BBC who are aware of the identity of the source. Where it is sought, the relevant editor, including the Director-General as Editor-in-Chief has the right to be told a source’s identity.