Section 4: Impartiality
Impartiality in Series and Over Time
In achieving due impartiality, a 'series of programmes' may be considered as a whole.
The term 'series of programmes' applies to the following:
- Content that deals with the same or related issues, within an appropriate period, and are clearly linked.
This may include a strand with a common title; different types of linked programmes (such as a drama with a following debate); a clearly identified season of programmes or items on the same or similar subjects; or a set of interlinked web pages. Such programmes, items or web pages need to achieve due impartiality across the series, and online content should include links or signposts to the other online elements.
The intention to achieve due impartiality in this way should be planned in advance. For programmes, the dates and times of other programmes in the series should be announced at the time of the first relevant programme. Where that is not practicable, advance notice of subsequent programmes in the series should be given in other ways.
- Programmes dealing with widely disparate issues from one edition to the next, but also clearly linked as a strand with a common title and a particular remit.
In strands, due impartiality should normally be achieved within individual programmes, or across a specific number of explicitly editorially linked programmes. However, across a whole series or over time these strands will also need to demonstrate due impartiality, for example through a consistent application of editorial judgement.
On long-running or continuous output (such as general daily magazine programmes, the News Channel, Online, etc.) due impartiality may be achieved over time by the consistent application of editorial judgement in relevant subject areas. For instance, it is not usually required for an appearance by a politician, or other contributor with partial views, to be balanced on each occasion by those taking a contrary view, although it may sometimes be necessary to offer a right of reply.
However, editors of long-running or continuous output should ensure that:
- it reflects a broad range of individuals and views, including all main strands of argument
- differing views are given due weight and treated fairly in terms of prominence, treatment and time of day
- there is an appropriate timeframe for assessing that due impartiality has been achieved. Particular care is required approaching elections (see below).
When dealing with 'major matters', due impartiality cannot normally be achieved over time or by a breadth of views available across our online services.
Some output which covers normally non-controversial areas (such as favourite music or books, sporting allegiances or personal biography) may seek, on an occasional basis, to include contributors or presenters who are otherwise known for their partiality, for example politicians, campaigners or others who are identified with particular views. On these occasions, an appropriate breadth and diversity should be achieved over time by a consistent application of editorial judgement which might mean ensuring that, for example, potentially favourable content includes other individuals with differing views. The appropriate timeframe for achieving the necessary breadth and diversity will vary according to context, but it will not normally be greater than a programme series or a year. There will be different considerations during periods approaching elections (see below).
Any proposal to invite a politician to be a guest on a programme or area of content where to do so is the exception rather than the rule, must be referred to Chief Adviser Politics.
In all instances where the aim is to achieve due impartiality regarding politics or public policy over a series or over time, periods approaching elections and referendums must be given special consideration. Advice is available from Chief Adviser Politics.
On occasion, an individual programme or other content, which is not part of a series or long-running or continuous output, includes the expression of a view on a 'controversial subject' and still meets the requirements of due impartiality for that individual programme or content. On such occasions, referral should be made to the relevant output controller, so that consideration can be given to due impartiality across the relevant service if necessary.
Section 4: Impartiality