Telephone services are often used for competitions, programme support, phone-ins and comment, voting, raising money for charities, sending and receiving BBC and user generated content, contestant lines and interacting with game shows.

Any proposal to run a competition, vote or award using telephony must be referred to the Interactivity Technical Advice and Contracts Unit (ITACU) for technical, contracting and legal advice and to ensure that the relevant approval forms are completed and logged. It must also follow the mandatory approvals process in the detailed guidance on interactivity, including the referrals it specifies to Editorial Policy, and senior editorial figures in the relevant division.

Premium Rate Telephony


All proposals to use premium rate telephony in licence fee-funded services and Global News must be referred to ITACU and Editorial Policy at an early stage. Any use of premium rate telephony on BBC commercial services must be referred in the first instance to the relevant editorial leader.

We must comply with the code of practice issued by the industry regulator, PhonepayPlus.

The audience must be clearly informed how much it will cost them to interact with BBC programming and content via premium rate telephony.

Premium Rate Telephony on BBC Public Service Channels

On BBC public services, premium rate lines are normally used when they are the most suitable and safest way to handle large volumes of calls effectively.

In addition to the Editorial Guidelines, there is a mandatory approvals process for premium rate telephony, and separate legal and regulatory constraints.  Advice is available from Editorial Policy.

In particular:

  • The lowest viable tariff must be charged
  • We do not use premium rate lines with the aim of making a profit except where their use has been specifically approved to raise money for a BBC charitable appeal
  • Any proposal to use premium rate lines to raise money for charity through any form of audience interaction must be referred well in advance to Editorial Policy and the Interactivity Technical Advice and Contracts Unit (ITACU). Approval will also be required at a high divisional level
  • Any proposal to use premium rate lines for services aimed at children must be referred to Editorial Policy and the relevant divisional Director. If such lines are to be used then we must prompt children to seek permission to call from the bill payer
  • The BBC must also ensure that technical systems are used which prevent callers from being charged should they try to use the system when the lines are not open.


Use of Text Messaging (SMS)


There are specific technical issues involved in the use of SMS and these can lead to editorial issues.  ITACU and Editorial Policy should be consulted.

In particular, careful consideration must be given as to whether enough time has been allowed for receipt, collation and examination of texts as there can be delays in this form of interaction.


Contestant Lines


In some cases it may be appropriate to invite people to apply to be part of a programme by ringing a contestant line.  Referral must be made to ITACU.  Consideration should be given to whether applications could also be made online, by post or by other methods.


Event Information Lines on BBC Public Service Channels


We may trail on air phone lines which provide information about events or performances being covered by BBC programmes.  These lines should not normally be premium rate or a means of purchasing tickets, though they may give details of telephone sales numbers.  Any exceptions must be referred to Editorial Policy.

Helplines and Online Support Services


When we broadcast content raising difficult or distressing issues, we should consider whether it is appropriate to provide a helpline offering further information or support and/or supply similar information online.  BBC Audience Lines should normally be consulted.

The following conditions apply to such support services:

  • We must not use premium rate numbers for helplines or action lines. They should be free or priced at cost recovery, and therefore not designed to make a profit
  • We must seek to ensure that information provided is impartial, objective and accurate. We should give details of and/or links to a wide range of agencies, charities and statutory organisations. No single body should be unduly promoted at the expense of others
  • We must ensure that any helpline, whether provided by the BBC or an outside agency, is capable of offering a robust service
  • We should not normally trail helplines or action lines run by other organisations, except where they offer a specialised service such as the Samaritans.

(See Section 14 Editorial Integrity and Independence from External Interests: 14.4.34 - 14.4.37)


Automated Information Services


We must ensure that recorded 'dial and listen' information services are simple, factual, and directly relevant to our output.  The duration of calls should be kept to a minimum.  The audience should be informed of the cost.  The service must not be used to promote any commercial product, retailer or supplier.


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