Section 15: Conflicts of Interest
On-air Talent, Commercial Advertising, Promotional Activity and Endorsements
The BBC does not seek to place unnecessary restrictions on talent. However, it is essential that promotional activities do not undermine the integrity of the BBC, the presenter or the programmes with which they are associated.
When engaging talent, consideration should be given to whether their existing advertising or promotional commitments will have undue influence on the programme's editorial agenda. There are fundamental risks to the editorial integrity of a programme if a presenter's promotional activities could distort its agenda by forcing the omission of items or changing what it covers.
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 or lifestyle talent, as long as their integrity and the integrity of the programme they present is not undermined.
There may be fewer restrictions on a presenter seen as an independent outsider, or expert, who presents few programmes or a one-off series, but is not, in the main, considered as a BBC presenter.
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.
No presenter or reporter should advertise or promote products or clothing they use on air. BBC presenters and reporters must not accept clothing free in exchange for wearing it on air. This could be considered a form of product placement. Nor should they appear on air wearing clothes or using products which they have been contracted to promote, advertise or endorse, or in which they have any financial interest.
Other restrictions exist in specific areas:
- Presenters and reporters on news, current affairs and business programmes are not permitted to take part in any promotions, endorsements or advertisements for third parties
- Presenters or reporters who appear in serious factual programmes which consider matters of public policy or political or industrial controversy are not normally permitted to take part in any advertisements for third parties
- Presenters or reporters who are involved in investigative programmes must not undertake any outside promotional work, unless their on-air role is ring fenced to one specific topic
- Presenters and reporters on consumer programmes that cover a wide range of topics must not undertake any promotional work for third parties as there is no product or service outside the remit of the programme
- Presenters and reporters on consumer programmes that cover a specific topic may only be permitted to undertake promotions for products entirely unconnected with the subject matter of the programme
- Lifestyle presenters who give advice on the purchase or use of branded products must not undertake any advertising or promotions of products or retailers associated with the subject matter of their programmes. On-air talent who give clear objective advice on how to solve problems should not advertise products or services which aim to solve these specific problems.
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 (such as tobacco or tobacco products, escort agencies and sex chat lines).
Presenters of children's programmes must not promote products directly connected to the subject matter of the programmes they present, aimed specifically at children, or likely to be harmful to children (such as alcohol).
Style of Advertisements
Advertisements should not imitate or pass off BBC programmes, for example by replicating editorial elements of a programme or music or graphics associated with the programme, or by using or directly imitating BBC sets or key venues from the programme.
Advertisements should not replicate or pass off the role the presenter plays in the programme. There should be no use of more than one BBC presenter or other on-air talent from the same programme in any advertisement for a non-BBC-related product. It is also unlikely to be acceptable for several presenters from different BBC programmes to appear in the same advertisement.
The overall style of the advertisement should not bring the BBC into disrepute.
Regular Contributors to Programmes
Consideration also needs to be given to promotional work undertaken by contributors who appear in programmes regularly, but who are not engaged as presenters. The BBC is not in a position to restrict, and would not normally wish to restrict, the advertising activities of these outside contributors. However, the BBC should not use contributors who undertake promotional work which could give rise to doubts about their objectivity. In particular, expert contributors who give specific advice about what to buy should not endorse products or services in the areas on which they give advice.
Actors and Artists who Perform in Programmes
Actors should not appear in television advertisements in a way which directly replicates their on-air role in BBC programmes. Actors and artists from the same BBC programme should not appear in the same advertisement or series of advertisements for the same product, service or organisation.
Presenters of Factual Programming Appearing in Drama
Presenters of factual programmes should be aware that simulating their role in fictional programmes might carry risks for their own credibility and that of the programmes they are associated with. The expectations and likely reactions of the audience must be considered carefully.
Current presenters of BBC news programmes should not appear as news presenters in a fictional bulletin if it is at all likely that this could cause confusion and concern. Any proposal to do so, for example in a clearly comic, unrealistic or fantasy situation, must be referred to their head of department.
Section 15: Conflicts of Interest