Section 13: Re-Use and Reversioning

Fairness, Consent and Privacy Issues

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  1. Secretly Recorded Material
  2. Material Depicting Illegal or Anti-Social Activity
  3. Royal Archive Material


The BBC has a continuing responsibility to respect privacy and to act fairly towards contributors when re-using, reversioning and making archive material available.  So far as is reasonably practicable and when it was not implicit at the time they gave consent, we should inform contributors of our intention to re-use material.

We must check any relevant available detail of contributor consents and observe any restrictions on the re-use of the material, unless we are able to establish that circumstances have changed since the restrictions were imposed, so that they no longer apply.

(See Section 6 Fairness, Contributors and Consent: 6.4.1)




Archive material involving illness, death, emotional trauma or intimate personal revelation, or individuals as children, when they were unable to give informed consent, may become more sensitive over time.  We must consider how to minimise possible distress to surviving contributors, victims and relatives when we re-use, reversion or make available such archive content.

When our use of the archive may cause distress to the contributors, victims or their relatives or close friends, their views should be sought where possible.  If they object to re-use, any proposal to do so must be approved by a senior editorial figure or, for independents, by the commissioning editor.  Approval will only be given if the objections are outweighed by a public interest.

Any proposal to re-use archive material of identifiable grieving or distressed people must be referred to a senior editorial figure or, for independents, to the commissioning editor.

(See Section 7 Privacy: 7.4.44)



In addition, dramas and drama-documentaries should only use archive material when it can be editorially justified.  We must ensure re-use of material does not create unfairness, by, for example, causing unjustified embarrassment, surprise or offence to identifiable people featured in the archive material.  We should take particular care when re-using material of past events involving suffering or trauma or contentious material such as images of riots.




Paid contributors or others involved in the production of content may have contractual rights relating to re-use of archive material.  When any proposed re-use may not have been covered by the original fee, Talent & Rights Negotiation Group must be contacted as necessary and in sufficient time for any legal obligations to be assessed and fulfilled.



Secretly Recorded Material


The re-use of secretly recorded archive material must be referred before broadcast to a senior editorial figure or, for independents, to the commissioning editor.  A record must be kept of the decision.

(See Section 7 Privacy: 7.4.11 - 7.4.12)



Material Depicting Illegal or Anti-Social Activity


The use of archive material relating to crimes, victims of crime and anti-social activity requires careful editorial judgements.  We should:

  • avoid using the same incident to illustrate a general theme, for example, the same driver being breathalysed repeatedly may be unfair
  • not use archive material of one identifiable crime to illustrate another
  • take care when using archive shots of prisoners to illustrate a specific crime or type of crime.  Individuals should not be clearly identifiable if they were not involved in the crime in question
  • consult Programme Legal Advice about any proposed use of archive material of a crime if court proceedings are pending or in progress.



Royal Archive Material


Material featuring members of the Royal Family or the Royal Palaces is often subject to specific contractual arrangements, especially when the BBC has been given privileged access.  Any plans to re-use, reversion or make available such archive material must be referred to the BBC's Royal Liaison Officer. This does not apply to news


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