Editorial Policy Newsletter - Feb 2013

Created on 11 Feb 2013

Welcome to the first BBC Editorial Policy Newsletter of 2013

Please forward this newsletter to any colleagues you think would benefit from reading it and encourage them to sign up to receive future editions direct via email.

Material Uncovered During Investigations

We don’t usually hand over material we’ve discovered during investigations to the police, or anyone else.  We might, if it reveals a threat to life, or some other serious risk.  We would normally broadcast our investigation, and only then make our research available – though we wouldn’t generally hand over interview notes or untransmitted material to, for example, the police without a court a order.

If your investigation does uncover information that should be shared with others, you should start by getting touch with Editorial Policy and Programme Legal Advice. You can read the relevant guidelines here.

There is no legal obligation to go to the Police if we uncover evidence of illegality unless it is terrorism.

If an investigation is aborted before TX then we would have to weigh up what to do with the material.  The BBC will need to decide what to do at a corporate level.  For the time being, you should contact Editorial Policy.

The BBC’s Guidance on Investigations on the Editorial Policy website will be updated soon, and we’ll be discussing it at Editorial Policy meetings soon.

Setting Up Action Lines

When our programmes cover issues which people in the audience find upsetting a helpline or additional off-air material is often a good idea.

Programme makers wanting to set up an action line or helpline for audiences should contact BBC Audience Services as early as possible in the production process. This helps ensure there’s enough time to contact a range of appropriate organisations and talk to them about their abilities to plan and cope with increased call volumes.


You can read the Editorial Guidelines on the use of off-air support here:


You can find out more about Action Lines here:

The Trade Mark Tango - TASER

Outward Bound, Hoover, Portakabin are all registered trade marks – and not, as many people think, generic terms for adventure trips, vacuum cleaners or temporary accomodation.

Trade mark owners do not like ‘generic’ use because it can lead to their brands losing their distinctiveness and ultimately becoming invalid.  More importantly for the BBC, a negative story where a trade mark is used generically, runs the risk of being defamatory if it wasn't the brand named that was involved.

The latest complaint to the BBC about generic use has been from Tactical Safety Responses Ltd, the UK distributors of TASER electronic control devices.  They remind us that “TASER” is in fact a registered trade mark of Taser International, Inc. and that official supplies of Taser devices in the UK are limited to police and military use. 

You should not, therefore, use the term “TASER” as a generic term, and, particularly where there is a critical or negative context, care should be taken to ensure that where the term is used it is in relation to a genuine Taser product.   When referring to a similar product made by some other manufacturer, or where you don’t know who made it, try “stun gun” instead. 

The Iintellectual Property  Department’s general advice on inadvertent use of trade marks, and suggested generic terms that should be used instead can be found here:

Editorial Legal is holding a one of its regular briefings – “The Portakabin of doom and Lessons from McAlpine: On what basis was the case settled and what are the legal lessons for the future?” on 20th February 2013, 1.30 – 2.30 pm, 7th Floor Learning Zone, NBH

Places are limited, so please do respond as soon as possible to

May Elections: Draft Guidelines Published

Local government elections take place on 2nd May 2013 in parts of England and in one council (Ynys Mon) in Wales. 

The BBC’s draft Election Guidelines have been published and are available to read and download (in PDF format) here.

They will be considered by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee before the election period begins on the 26th March 2013.  Any comments on the draft guidelines should be sent to Ric Bailey, Chief Adviser, Politics, before 14th February 2013.

Eastleigh By-Election

Following Chris Huhne’s resignation as its MP, Eastleigh goes to the polls on on Thursday 28th February.  Most of the candidates have been selected, and anyone planning coverage should read the Guidelines for by-elections

Levels of past and current electoral support should be taken into account in deciding relative levels of coverage:  Liberal Democrat, Conservative, Labour and UKIP should receive broadly similar levels of coverage in items about the constituency and/or the by-election. 

If you have any queries about coverage please contact Ric Bailey, Chief Adviser, Politics by email or phone: 07889 852195 or Phil Abrams: 

Identifying Children in our Output

Decisions about whether to publish photos of missing children, such as 12 year old Pierre Barnes who disappeared on the French Coast last year, raise questions of accuracy and privacy. There may be other occasions when we must take care that information we disclose about children and young people does not put them at any risk. (Editorial Guidelines 9.4.2)

When considering whether to identify a child, you need to remember that even when a story is non-controversial, there may be important reasons not to identify a child. In many non-controversial and non-sensitive cases it may be appropriate to name a child by their first name and to give out the name of the large town they live in or near.If you are thinking about giving more details out – such as their surname – this should be part of the informed consent process. You should find out from the parent/carer/responsible adult whether this would put the child at risk.

Make sure you do not inadvertently reveal several pieces of information that could lead to “jigsaw identification”. It is not usually advisable to name the school unless it is part of the story.

There is more information in the Editorial Guidance Working with Children and Young People.


The Editorial Policy Guidance Note on Interacting with Children and Young People Online contains further advice on user contributions.


There will be another of our regular Editorial Policy Meetings in LONDON on Thursday 14th Feb, 11:30-12:30 5th Floor Conference Centre, White City.

The agenda will feature the following:


Censorship or Sensitivity?

Recent news reports have criticised the BBC for both censoring Jimmy Savile from the archive, over his removal from Desert Island Discs, and for being insufficiently sensitive to his victims by not erasing a Savile look-a-like from an episode of The Tweenies.  

So does an allegation or conviction for a sexual offence against a BBC presenter necessarily mean they must be expunged from our archive and should we omit racist language from historic programmes before repeating them?

Using a number of recent examples, the meeting will explore these and other issues. 


Advertising & Sponsorship Guidelines  


Advertising and sponsorship provide important sources of revenue for the BBC’s Commercial Services. However if executed badly they could damage the BBC’s global reputation and cause future commercial relationships to be put in jeopardy. Anthony Worrall, Senior Adviser, Editorial Standards, BBC Worldwide will explain why the BBC has Advertising and Sponsorship Guidelines for BBC Commercial Services and highlight the revised Guidelines which will come into force on 1st March.


The meeting is open to all within the BBC to attend and take part. You do not need to book. You are welcome to send a deputy if you are unable to come or bring anyone else from your teams who may benefit from the discussion.

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