Section 7: Privacy
Doorstepping is when we confront and record, or attempt to record, an interview with someone for broadcast, or announce that a phone call is being recorded for broadcast, when that person is not expecting to be interviewed for broadcast because we have not made an arrangement with them to do so. It often involves an infringement of privacy and should normally be a last resort.
Doorstepping can be in person or on the phone or intercom, etc. It can take place on public or private property. It can be for news and factual programmes as well as comedy and entertainment.
Doorstepping does not include vox pops. Additionally, the guidelines on doorstepping that follow are not intended to prevent the legitimate gathering of material for the daily news agenda, research purposes or for comedy and entertainment output.
Doorstepping for News and Factual Programmes With Prior Approach
Any proposal to doorstep, whether in person or on the phone, where we have tried to make an appointment for an interview with the individual or organisation concerned must be approved by a senior editorial figure or, for independents, by the commissioning editor.
Approval will normally only be given when there is evidence of crime or significant wrongdoing and for one, or more, of the following reasons:
- the subject of a doorstep has failed to respond to repeated requests for interview in connection with the wrongdoing alleged
- a request for an interview has been repeatedly refused without good reason and substantial allegations of wrongdoing have been avoided
- there is a history of failure to respond to interview requests or refusal to be interviewed.
Proposals for doorstepping should be proportionate to any wrongdoing. Consideration should be given to the safety of production staff and the risk of infringing the privacy of third parties who are insufficiently responsible for any wrongdoing, such as family members or junior employees.
Doorstepping for Factual Programmes Without Prior Approach
Any proposal to doorstep an individual or organisation, whether in person or on the phone, where we have not previously tried to make an appointment for an interview, must be approved by Director Editorial Policy and Standards. This does not apply to daily newsgathering.
Approval will normally only be given if:
- there is clear evidence of crime or significant wrongdoing, and
- it has not been possible to request an interview, or
- there is good reason to believe that an investigation will be frustrated or allegations avoided (for example, because those under investigation might become out of contact) if a prior approach is made.
Doorstepping for Comedy and Entertainment Programmes
Any proposal to doorstep, whether in person or on the phone, for comedy and entertainment purposes must be approved in advance by a senior editorial figure or, for independents, by the commissioning editor. People who are doorstepped must give their consent before the material is broadcast unless their identity is disguised.
Doorstepping for Daily Newsgathering
When public figures and other people are in the news, they can expect to be the subject of media attention. We may ask them questions and record their answers for broadcast, without prior arrangement, as they come and go from buildings, airports and so on.
However, we should be aware that when media representatives congregate in large numbers to cover a news story, the resulting media scrum can become intimidating or unreasonably intrusive. Sometimes, it will be appropriate to make pooling arrangements with other media organisations. At other times, we may judge it proper to withdraw.
Doorstepping and Research
The BBC's guidelines on doorstepping are not intended to prevent researchers, who are not recording for broadcast, from making cold calls to people, either by phone or in person (including, when appropriate, at their home), or approaching people opportunistically, for example when conducting vox pops.