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16 October 2014
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Conflicts of Interest Guidelines

7 On-Air Talent and Commercial Advertising

Increasingly advertisers and manufacturers are seeking to employ presenters to endorse products. Although the BBC does not seek to place unnecessary constraints on talent, it is essential that promotional activities do not constitute a conflict of interest and do not undermine the editorial integrity of presenters or the programmes they present.

This section outlines what outside promotional work may be undertaken by those who "front", "anchor" or present BBC radio or television programmes in any genre. It applies to the whole range of presenters from news presenters to those who host entertainment programmes, but the nature of the presenter's on-air role will affect what is appropriate and section 7.2 below outlines what is acceptable for presenters in each genre.

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 presenters or lifestyle presenters providing their integrity and the integrity of the programme they present is not undermined.


The guidance in this section should be reflected in contractual arrangements for regular presenters or presenters of a series of programmes. On-air talent should be made aware of these guidelines and presenters who work for the BBC other than on an occasional basis should be required to consult the BBC before undertaking any outside advertising work. Some existing contracts may not reflect the principles of these guidelines, but renewed contractual arrangements should conform to them.

7.1 Basic Principles for non-BBC Promotional Work by Presenters in all Genres

No advertising campaign or advertisement should give the public reason to doubt the objectivity of BBC presenters

  • there should be no conflict of interest between the presenter's on-air activities and the promotion of a particular product or service
  • the product or service they promote must not be shown, featured, reviewed or discussed in the programmes they present
  • no presenter should replicate their on-air role to endorse a product or service either in traditional advertising or on any personal or third party website
  • no promotional activity should undermine the values of the BBC brand
  • some key presenters who are on long term contract or who have long standing associations with the BBC may be subject to particular restrictions on their promotional activities. There may be fewer restrictions on a presenter who is seen as an independent outsider, who presents a few programmes or a one-off series, but who is not considered in the main as a BBC presenter
  • presenters in all genres will often be permitted to undertake some promotional activities for a book they have written, whether or not it is published by the BBC. However, such promotions must not undermine the programme they present or jeopardise the presenter's reputation for objectivity or impartiality
  • the BBC may need to be more cautious in allowing presenters to undertake television or radio advertising than advertising in newspapers or on billboards as television or radio adverts will more clearly replicate their role in a BBC programme.

7.2 Presenters' outside promotional activities - guidance for specific genres

  • News, current affairs and business programmes 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.
  • Serious factual programmes outside news and current affairs Presenters or reporters who appear in serious factual programmes which consider controversial public policy or matters of political or industrial controversy would not normally be permitted to take part in any advertisements for third parties. The degree to which they are regarded as an objective journalist in their on-air role will affect decisions as to whether any outside promotional work is permissible at all. It would not be appropriate for presenters or reporters who are involved in investigative programmes to undertake any outside promotional work.

In other cases the key consideration must be that presenters or reporters should not be allowed to undertake promotions for any product or service related to the subject matter of the programme they present. If their on-air role is restricted to a particular subject area they might be permitted to advertise something entirely unrelated.

  • General consumer programmes

Presenters and reporters on consumer programmes which cover a wide range of topics, such as Watchdog, may not undertake any promotional work for third parties as there is no product or service outside the remit of the programme.

  • Consumer programmes about specific topics

These are programmes which provide serious journalistic analysis on a particular topic or which undertake consumer reviews in a specific area. Presenters of such programmes may only be permitted to undertake promotions for products entirely unassociated with the subject matter of the programme.

  • Lifestyle programmes

These are non journalistic programmes which do not undertake specific reviews. Areas of lifestyle programming include makeovers, gardening programmes and cookery.

  • Presenters of lifestyle programmes

Sometimes lifestyle programmes give a degree of consumer advice and this will affect the presenter's ability to undertake promotional activities. Lifestyle presenters who give advice on what branded products to buy or use should not undertake any advertising in any medium for products or retailers associated with the subject matter of their programmes. Presenters who give clear objective advice on how to solve problems should not advertise products or services which aim to solve these specific problems.

Presenters of lifestyle programmes, such as makeovers, which refer to specific branded products, should not advertise any products which might be featured. For example, some makeovers give details in astons of which paint or other materials are used. In these cases the presenters should not advertise brands of paint or other materials used.

No lifestyle presenter should undertake radio or television advertising for a product or retailer associated with the subject matter of their programmes. Nor should they undertake any off-air advertising for products related to the subject matter of their programmes. However, in some cases, lifestyle presenters who do not give consumer advice may undertake off-air adverts for retailers who sell products covered in their programmes. Such adverts for retailers should not feature any particular branded or own brand product directly related to the subject matter of the programme they present. (See also section below on advertising presenters' own products).

  • Chefs and Cookery Presenters

Television cooks or chefs should not undertake any radio or television advertising for any product or retailer associated with the subject matter of their programmes. They should also not undertake any off-air advertising for specific branded food products. However, if chefs do not give consumer advice on air, they may undertake some off-air advertising in this area as long as it does not compromise their on-air role. Television chefs who do not give consumer advice may undertake off air adverts for a food retailer provided the advert does not feature any particular branded or own brand food product. The advertisements should not replicate their programmes in any way and should not use recipes from their programmes. Producers should ensure that the retailer's products are not used, shown or referred to in their programmes.

Lifestyle presenters, including chefs, may undertake advertisements in any medium for products which are not associated with the subject matter of their programmes. However, these advertisements must not replicate their on-air role or imitate the programme in any way.

  • Presenter's Own Products

Increasingly lifestyle presenters are developing their own products associated with their on-air role and in some cases are distributing these products through their own websites, as well as by more traditional means. Presenters can develop their own products, but care needs to be taken to ensure that such products do not give rise to a conflict of interest. Presenters on long term contract should be asked to inform the BBC about any products they are developing. In no circumstances, however, should presenters' own products be shown or referred to in any of their programmes.

  • Advertising of presenters' own products

Any promotion of such products needs to be treated with great care to ensure that the presenter's objective role is not undermined. The BBC would not agree to presenters advertising their own products on television or radio as such adverts would tend to replicate the presenter's on-air role.

However lifestyle presenters who do not give consumer advice may be able to advertise their products in newspapers, magazines, on billboards or online, providing they do not use these products or ones closely resembling them in their programmes. If lifestyle presenters give advice on specific problem solving, in order to preserve their reputation for objectivity, they should not undertake any on-air or off-air adverts for products aimed to solve the specific problems about which they give on-air advice.

Where both on-air and off-air advertising is ruled out, point of sale promotions and promotions on the presenter's own website are usually acceptable. However any promotions on their websites must not be used to exploit their BBC connections - no material from their BBC programmes may be used and they should not sell products on their websites when they are featured on their programmes.

  • Sport

The suitability of any commercial activities undertaken by sports presenters will depend on the nature of their on-air role, the nature of the programme and whether they are perceived primarily as a sports journalist, a sports entertainment presenter or a sportsman/woman who also presents programmes. Careful judgements need to be made about the acceptability of any advert which is related to sport in any way. Presenters who are clearly undertaking sports journalism should not advertise sports products, such as sports kit, or do adverts for sports sponsors. However, they may advertise products not directly associated with sport or sports sponsorship.

  • Children's Programmes

Presenters of children's programmes should not promote products directly connected to the subject matter of the programmes they present. They also should not undertake any advertisements for products specifically aimed at children or products likely to be harmful to children such as alcohol.

  • Entertainment

Entertainment presenters should not appear in adverts which are closely associated with the subject matter of any programme they present or which mimic the style of the programme. (See section 7.7 below concerning style of permitted advertisements.)

7.3 Advertising Commitments and the Editorial Agenda

As is made clear in section 7.2 above, it is essential that products or services which a presenter promotes should not be shown or featured in a programme they present. When engaging talent, consideration should be given as to whether their existing advertising commitments will undermine the programme's editorial agenda. There are dangers to the editorial integrity of a programme if a presenter's promotional activities distort the agenda of a programme by forcing the programme to omit items or change what it covers.

  • Entertainment programmes

In exceptional circumstances producers of an entertainment programme may think that it is editorially justifiable to make a joke about a presenter's outside promotional activities, or a guest on a programme may make such a joke. On the whole it is advisable to avoid such jokes as it may be difficult to ensure that they are non-promotional for the product or service advertised.

7.4 Unsuitable Products or Services

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. This prohibition would include tobacco or tobacco products, escort agencies and sex chat lines.

7.5 Timing of Advertisements

Some presenters are only contracted to the BBC for specific time periods to coincide with series of programmes which they present. However, as far as possible, contractual safeguards concerning advertisements should also cover the periods when programmes are repeated.

7.6 Guidance for 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 the advertising activities of these outside contributors and in many cases it would be unreasonable to do so. 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.

Some contributors, who are not main presenters, may play a significant role in every programme in a series. In such cases the BBC may decide that they need to be subject to the same restrictions as presenters in that genre.

7.7 Style of Advertisements

Any adverts in which BBC presenters appear should not copy or make play of BBC programmes as it is important that no impression is given that the BBC is endorsing any commercial product or service. It is also important that the style of the advert does not bring the BBC into disrepute.

The following key points should be observed

  • No advert should replicate, imitate or pass off BBC programmes, titles or logos
  • No adverts should replicate or pass off the role the presenter plays in the programme
  • Adverts should not replicate editorial elements of a programme e.g. BBC television chefs should not feature recipes from their programmes in any adverts
  • No music or graphics associated with the programme should be used
  • Adverts should not replicate the look of the programme. There should be no use or direct imitation of BBC programme sets or the key venues used in the presenter's programme
  • No adverts should refer to the BBC or any of its services or programmes
  • There should be no use of more than one BBC presenter from the same programme in any advert for an outside product. It is also unlikely to be acceptable for several presenters from different BBC programmes to appear in the same advert
  • The overall style of the advert should not be tasteless and should not bring the BBC into disrepute.

7.8 Actors and artists who perform in programmes

Actors should not appear in television adverts in a way which directly replicates their on air role in BBC programmes.

7.9 Who decides what is appropriate?

An assessment of whether advertising or promoting third parties is acceptable will be made by the Controller responsible for the relevant output in consultation, where necessary, with Editorial Policy and Controller, Talent Management.

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