Section 6: Fairness, Contributors and Consent
Contributors and Informed Consent
We should treat our contributors honestly and with respect. Our commitment to fairness is normally achieved by ensuring that people provide 'informed consent' before they participate. 'Informed consent' means that contributors should be in possession of the knowledge that is necessary for a reasoned decision to take part in our content.
Before they participate, contributors should normally know:
- why they are being asked to contribute to BBC content and where it will first appear
- the context of the content
- the nature of their involvement.
The more significant their contribution, the more detail we should provide. However, we should normally expect to explain the following:
- The kind of contribution they are expected to make. We should tell them in advance about the range of views being represented in the specific content to which they are contributing and, wherever possible, the names of other likely contributors
- Whether their contribution will be live or recorded and/or edited. When recorded, we should not guarantee it will be broadcast
- We can only give a broad outline of question areas because the direction the interview takes will be dependent on what is said
- The final content will be a fair and truthful representation of what they say and do
- Their contribution may be used by other BBC outlets including reproduction and archiving online
- We do not normally allow a preview of BBC content. However, when a preview is considered for editorial, ethical or legal reasons, we must be clear about the terms under which it is offered. It is normally best to do this in writing in advance. We should make it clear that we are not surrendering editorial control and that any changes made as a result will generally only relate to the correction of agreed factual inaccuracies or for reasonable concerns about the welfare of children, personal safety, or national security
- Their contractual rights and obligations and those of the BBC in relation to their contribution. For example, we expect contributors to be honest, straightforward and truthful.
We should not make any commitment to a contributor that we can not keep. Third party websites may reproduce our content globally without our knowledge or consent, so no guarantee can be given that a contribution will not be seen in particular countries.
People recorded committing or admitting to an offence, or behaving or admitting to behaving in an anti-social manner will not normally be asked for consent. We would also normally reveal their identity although there are circumstances when it is important not to do so.
There may be occasions when people are discussed, referred to or appear in material without their knowledge or consent. They may be public figures or private individuals and the material may include photographs, video and correspondence in which they feature. We should be fair and accurate in our portrayal of these people and, where appropriate, respect their legitimate expectations of privacy.
We should normally make contributors aware of significant changes to a programme or other content as it develops and prior to transmission, if such changes might reasonably be considered to have affected their original decision to participate, had it been known at the time. Depending on specific circumstances, such changes might include programme titles (for example, where they alter audience perception of the content or contributors), other significant contributors, significant changes to broadcast or publication date, or anything that materially alters the context in which the contribution will appear.
We obtain informed consent from our contributors in a variety of ways depending on the circumstances of their contribution. Wherever practicable we should obtain consent in a form capable of proof.
In many cases contributors will give their consent by simply agreeing to be recorded for radio or television or to contribute online. For example, this will usually apply to those who are interviewed at short notice for any of our services, including people in the news and people who take part in "vox pops". It is clearly impractical to obtain written consent for time sensitive contributions, including those to local radio, continuous news and other news outlets.
Occasionally there may also be circumstances in which contributors give their verbal consent at the start of a project and their continued consent is implicit through their ongoing involvement in the making of the programme.
We should not normally rely on third parties to gain consent from a responsible adult although it may sometimes be sensible to approach a potential contributor via a third party in the first instance, for example when dealing with vulnerable people, the bereaved or in other sensitive circumstances.
For more significant contributions, we may sometimes ask participants to sign a contract which formalises the terms of their dealings with us, and includes a declaration of personal information which may bring the BBC into disrepute, for example, criminal convictions, or which may involve possible conflicts of interest.
Young people and vulnerable adults may not always be in a position to give informed consent, for example, people with learning difficulties or forms of dementia, the bereaved, and people who are sick or terminally ill. In such cases, someone over 18 with primary responsibility for their care should normally give consent on their behalf, unless it is editorially justified to proceed without it. In particular, we should avoid asking someone who is unable to give their own consent for views on matters likely to be beyond their capacity to answer properly without the consent of an adult with primary responsibility for their care.
Withdrawal of Consent
Occasionally people who have willingly contributed to our output try to withdraw their consent prior to broadcast. Generally no one has the right in such circumstances to prevent their contribution being used, but we should listen carefully to any reasonable objections. There may be exceptions, for example where we have contractual obligations or perhaps where there have been significant changes to the context in which their contribution is to be used.
Section 6: Fairness, Contributors and Consent