Conflicts of Interest
Advertising, Promotions and Endorsement
In this article
On Air Talent - Commercial Advertising, Promotions and Endorsement
This section outlines what outside promotional work may be undertaken by those who "front", "anchor" or present BBC output in any genre. It applies to the whole range of presenters from news presenters and reporters to those who host entertainment programmes.
The BBC does not seek to place unnecessary constraints on talent. However it is essential that promotional activities do not constitute a conflict of interest and do not undermine the editorial integrity of presenters, the BBC or the programmes they present.
An assessment of whether advertising or promoting third parties is acceptable will be made by the relevant Head of Department responsible for the output, in consultation with Editorial Policy and the relevant member of the Talent Rights and Negotiation group
The following principles apply:
- Promotional activity must not undermine the values of the BBC brand
- The nature of the presenter's on-air role will affect what is appropriate
- Any presenter who appears on-air in a journalistic capacity will have considerable restrictions on what, if any, promotional activities they may undertake
- There will be fewer restrictions on entertainment presenters or lifestyle presenters providing their integrity and the integrity of the programme they present is not undermined
- Some key presenters who are on long term contracts or who have long standing associations with the BBC may be subject to particular restrictions on their promotional activities
- There may be fewer restrictions on a presenter who is seen as an independent outsider, who presents a few programmes or a one-off series, but who is not considered in the main as a BBC presenter
- There must be no conflict of interest between the presenter's on-air activities and the promotion or endorsement of a particular product or service
- Advertisements or promotions undertaken by presenters must not in any way suggest BBC endorsement, undermine the BBC's values, bring the BBC into disrepute, or give the public reason to doubt the objectivity of BBC presenters or their programmes
- No presenter should replicate their on-air role to endorse a product or service or organisation either in general advertising or on any personal or third party website. Their advertisements must not reference the BBC or its programmes directly or indirectly
- No product, service or organisation promoted by a presenter may be shown, featured, reviewed or discussed in the BBC programmes they present
- Presenters must not appear on-air wearing clothes or using products whether or not they have received them free or at reduced cost which they have been contracted to promote, advertise or endorse or in which they have any financial interest. (See Section 8 Personal Benefits)
- Presenters in all genres may be permitted to undertake some promotional activities for a book they have written, whether or not it is published by the BBC. However, such promotions must not undermine the programme they present or jeopardise the presenter's reputation for objectivity or impartiality
- The BBC needs to be more cautious in allowing presenters to undertake television or radio advertising than advertising in newspapers or on billboards as television or radio adverts are likely to more clearly replicate their role in a BBC programme.
Unsuitable Products or Services
Even when there is no obvious conflict of interest with the presenter's on-air role, there are some products or services which the BBC would not wish its presenters to promote as the association might be damaging to the BBC's reputation. This prohibition would include for example tobacco or tobacco products, escort agencies and sex chat lines. Care must be taken with other products such as alcohol, high interest financial products or gambling.
Contractual arrangements for regular presenters or presenters of a series of programmes will reference this guidance.
On-air talent should be made aware of this guidance and Section 15 of the BBC Editorial Guidelines and presenters who work for the BBC other than on an occasional basis should be required to consult the BBC before undertaking any outside advertising work.
In rare cases some existing contracts may not require adherence to the latest guidance, though of course they will always require adherence to the BBC Editorial Guidelines. However renewed contractual arrangements should require talent to conform to this current Guidance.
Advertising - Specific Guidance
This section provides specific guidance for advertising, endorsements, and promotional activities undertaken by presenters and other on-air or editorial talent. It includes advice for specific genres and guidance on the style of advertisements and other relevant issues.
News, Current Affairs and Business Programmes
Presenters, BBC correspondents and reporters on news, current affairs and business programmes are not permitted to take part in any promotions, endorsements or advertisements for third parties.
Factual Output Outside News and Current Affairs
Factual programmes which consider controversial public policy or matters of political or industrial controversy:
Presenters or reporters on these programmes would not normally be permitted to take part in any advertisements for third parties. The degree to which they are regarded as an objective journalist in their BBC on-air role will affect decisions as to whether any outside promotional work is permissible.
Presenters or reporters who are involved in investigative programmes must not undertake any outside promotional work.
Consumer programmes which cover a wide range of topics:
Presenters and reporters on consumer programmes which cover a wide range of topics, such as Watchdog, may not undertake any promotional work for third parties as there is no product or service outside the remit of the programme.
Consumer programmes about specific topics:
These are programmes which provide serious journalistic analysis on a particular topic or which undertake consumer reviews in a specific area. Presenters of such programmes may only be permitted to undertake promotions for products entirely unassociated with the subject matter of the programme.
Other Factual output:
In other factual programmes the key consideration must be that presenters or reporters should not be allowed to undertake Advertising or promotions which could undermine their on-air BBC role.
Therefore they would not normally be allowed to undertake advertising or promotions for any product or service related to the subject matter of the programme they present.
Any proposed exception must be referred to the relevant Head of Department and Editorial Policy. If their on-air role is restricted to a particular subject area they might be permitted to advertise something entirely unrelated, provided they do not reflect their on-air role.
These are non journalistic programmes which do not undertake specific consumer reviews, but may sometimes give advice on "how to do" or what ingredients or goods to use. Areas of lifestyle programming include makeovers, gardening programmes and cookery shows.
Presenters of lifestyle programmes
Some, but not all, BBC lifestyle programmes give audiences "how to do" advice e.g. on cooking or gardening or D.I.Y instructions. The degree to which such advice is offered will affect the presenter's ability to undertake promotional activities.
The following principles apply:
- Lifestyle presenters, including chefs and cooks, may normally undertake advertisements in any medium for products which are not associated with the subject matter of their programmes. However, these advertisements must not replicate their on-air role, reflect the programme in any way or undermine their BBC role.
- Lifestyle presenters who give specific advice on what types of products to buy or use should not undertake any advertising in any medium for those types of products. In particular presenters who give specific advice on how to solve problems should not advertise or promote products or services which aim to solve these specific problems
- No lifestyle presenter should undertake radio or television advertising for a product or retailer associated with the subject matter of their programmes.
However, in some cases, lifestyle presenters who do not give any specific advice on what to buy or use may undertake off-air adverts or promotions for retailers who sell products connected to the subject matter of their programmes. Such adverts for retailers should not promote any particular branded or own brand product or service, if that type of product or service is covered in the programmes they present.
(See also section below on advertising presenters' own products).
- Presenters of BBC cookery programmes including chefs and cooks should not undertake any radio or television advertising for any product, equipment or retailer associated with the subject matter of their programmes
- In addition presenters of BBC cookery programmes who give specific advice on-air about how to cook and/or which ingredients or specific equipment to use should also not undertake any off-air advertising for specific branded food products or equipment.
- If presenters do not give specific advice on equipment, they might in some cases be permitted to advertise equipment off-air as long as the advertisements do not in any way replicate their on-air role and such equipment is not shown or featured in the programmes they present. Such proposals must be referred to Editorial Policy.
- Presenters of cookery programmes which do not give any specific advice on how to cook or which ingredients or equipment to use (e.g. travel shows about cookery, entertainment cookery gameshows, competitions or talent searches) may:
(i) advertise food retailers off-air. Such advertisements or promotions must not make any reference to their BBC programmes in any way or refer to their on-air BBC role. Nor should they promote specific branded food or ingredients, as opposed, for example, to a basket of goods containing a range of products. All such adverts must be expressly approved by the relevant Head of Department in consultation with Editorial Policy.
(ii) advertise kitchen equipment off-air as long as this is not shown in their BBC programmes.
Presenters' Own Products
Increasingly lifestyle presenters such as cooks and chefs, gardeners and designers are developing their own products associated with their on-air role and in some cases are distributing these products through their own websites, as well as by more traditional means. Presenters can develop their own products. But presenters and on-air talent on long term contracts must be asked to inform the BBC about any products they are developing. The onus is on the presenter to inform the BBC prior to entering into a contractual agreement in relation to their products In no circumstances, however, should presenters' own products, or those closely resembling them be shown, used or referred to in any of their BBC programmes. However care needs to be taken to ensure that the sale and marketing of such products does not give rise to a conflict of interest with their on-air role.
Advertising and Marketing of Presenters' Own Products
Any promotion of such products needs to be treated with great care to ensure that the presenter's on-air role is not undermined. The BBC would not agree to presenters advertising their own products on television or radio as such adverts would tend to replicate the presenter's on-air role.
In many cases lifestyle presenters may be able to advertise their products in newspapers, magazines, on billboards or online, providing they do not in any way show, use or feature these products or ones closely resembling them in their programmes. Such advertising or marketing promotions must not in any way replicate the presenter's on-air role or make reference to their BBC programmes.
However lifestyle presenters who give advice on specific problem solving must not undertake any on-air or off-air adverts for products aimed to solve the specific problems about which they give on-air advice. This is in order to preserve their reputation for objectivity,
Where both on-air (radio and television) and off-air advertising is ruled out, point of sale promotions and promotions on the presenter's own website may be acceptable in some circumstances. However any promotions on their websites must not exploit their BBC connections - no material from their BBC programmes may be used and they should not sell products on their websites if they are featured on their programmes.
Presenters, reporters, commentators and regular "pundits" who work on BBC sports coverage and sports programmes should not advertise products or services connected with the sport or sports which they cover nor should they undertake adverts for the sponsors of the sports which they cover. It may however be acceptable for them to advertise products or services which are unconnected to the subject matter of the programmes in which they appear, provided that their perceived connection to the product does not damage the BBC's reputation or the BBC brand. The advertisement should not replicate their on-air role and the treatment should not be connected to the sport or sports which they cover. They should not appear in an advert with any other on-air talent which appears with them on-air in a BBC programme. (See below on style of advertisements.)
In some cases presenters and commentators (particularly former sportsmen/women) may be contracted for a short period for a specific tournament. Care should be taken to ensure that they do not undertake any advertising while working for the BBC which could appear to compromise their impartiality.
Presenters of sports quizzes and sports entertainment programmes should not undertake any advertising which would undermine their on-air role.
BBC sports journalists who report for BBC news programmes are subject to the same restrictions as other BBC news journalists and may not undertake any commercial advertising.
Great care must be taken in this area. Presenters of BBC children's programmes may be seen as role models and any off-air activities must be carefully considered to ensure they are compatible with their on-air BBC role.
On-air talent primarily known as presenters of BBC children's programmes should not undertake advertisements for products specifically aimed at children. In addition they should not
- promote products directly connected to the subject matter of the programmes they present
- undertake advertisements for products likely to be harmful to children such as alcohol
- undertake promotions for goods, services or organisations which would clearly be incompatible with their on-air role as a BBC Children's presenter or undermine their objectivity.
Any proposal for a BBC Children's presenter to undertake advertising or promotions must be referred in advance to Director BBC Children's who will consult Editorial Policy.
Entertainment presenters should not appear in adverts which are closely associated with the subject matter of any programme they present or which mimic the style of the programme. (See also section 10.13 below concerning style of permitted advertisements.) Such advertisements must not be incompatible with their on-air role, damage the BBC brand or bring the BBC, the presenter or their programmes into disrepute.
Advertising Commitments and Editorial Integrity
It is essential that products, services or organisations which a presenter promotes should not be shown or featured in a programme they present. When engaging talent consideration should be given as to whether their existing advertising commitments are likely to undermine the programme's editorial agenda. There are dangers to the editorial integrity of a programme if a presenter's promotional activities distort the editorial remit of a programme by forcing the programme to omit items or change what it covers.
Timing of Advertisements
Fine judgements may need to be made about the suitability of advertising and promotional work. A critical factor may be the timing of an advertising campaign in relation to the scheduling of a BBC programme. The BBC may decide that such advertising or promotions are only acceptable if there is a suitable time period between the advertising campaign and the start and finish of the BBC transmission of these programmes and any related BBC marketing activity.
Some on-air talent is only contracted to the BBC for specific time periods to coincide with the preparation and filming of the series of programmes in which they appear. However, as far as possible, contractual safeguards concerning advertising should also cover the periods when programmes are to be transmitted.
Guidance for Contributors to Programmes
Consideration also needs to be given to promotional work undertaken by frequent contributors to specific programmes, who are not engaged as presenters. The BBC is not normally in a position to restrict the advertising activities of these outside contributors and in many cases it would be unreasonable to do so.
The BBC should avoid using contributors who undertake promotional work which could give rise to doubts about their objectivity. In particular expert
contributors should not give specific advice on-air or on BBC websites about the types of products or services which they advertise or promote.
Some contributors, who are not necessarily presenters or main presenters, may play a significant role in a programme or a series. In such cases the BBC may decide that they need to be subject to the same restrictions as presenters in that genre.
Style of Advertisements
Any advertisements in which BBC presenters appear should not copy or make play of BBC programmes as it is important that no impression is given that the BBC is endorsing any commercial product or service. It is also important that the style of the advertisement does not bring the BBC into disrepute.
The following principles should be observed:
- No adverts should replicate or pass off the role the presenter plays in the programme
- Adverts should not replicate editorial elements of a programme e.g. BBC television chefs should not feature recipes from their programmes in any adverts
- No music or graphics associated with the BBC programme should be used
- Adverts should not replicate the look of the programme. There should be no use or direct imitation of BBC programme sets or the key venues used in the presenter's programme
- No adverts should refer to the BBC or any of its services or programmes
Normally no more than one presenter from any BBC programme should appear in the same advertisement or promotion. This is to avoid any suggestion of a connection between the BBC programme and the advertisement. However in certain circumstances in entertainment or lifestyle programming on-air talent may have already established themselves as a duo or group act, independently of their BBC role, In these cases consideration may be given as to whether they may undertake joint advertising and promotions. Any such proposals must be referred to the relevant Head of Department and Editorial Policy.
BBC on-air talent may sometimes feature as voiceover artists in television and radio advertisements. The restrictions are the same as for all advertisements in relation to what if any advertisements talent may undertake, the products and services which may be promoted and the nature of the advertisements.
In particular, they should not make reference to the BBC or their BBC programmes and the advertisements should not replicate their on-air role. For example, a BBC football commentator should not conduct a voiceover in the manner of a match commentary.
They should not undertake advertisement voiceovers for products or services they are likely to review or select for inclusion on a BBC programme. For example, presenters of BBC music programmes should not do voiceovers in advertisements for music releases where they are involved in selecting those releases for inclusion in the programme or station output.
Actors and Artists who Perform in BBC Programmes
Actors should not replicate the roles they perform in BBC programmes in adverts. Normally no more than one actor from a current BBC series may appear in an advertisement if such an appearance may lead to the perception of a connection with the BBC. Some BBC productions have specific restrictions in contracts with actors.
In some cases careful negotiations may need to be held where performers hold the rights to characters which are used in BBC entertainment, comedy or other programmes. In such cases consideration should be given to the timing of advertising campaigns in relation to the transmission periods of the programmes shown by the BBC.