Conflicts of Interest
Personal and Outside Interests
In this article
It is important that the personal, commercial, business, financial and other outside interests of BBC staff do not compromise their BBC role. The onus is on the journalist, content producer or on-air talent to let the BBC know if they (or in certain circumstances their family or close personal contacts) have any outside interests which could be perceived as a conflict of interest.
BBC production and editorial staff are required to declare any personal interest which may affect their employment with the BBC. These interests should be declared on a Declaration of Personal Interests Form.
Commercial, Business and Financial Interests
It is essential that the integrity of BBC programmes or other editorial output is not undermined by the commercial, business or financial interests of any journalists or content makers, presenters or anyone else involved in editorial or production decisions.
There must never be any suggestion that commercial or financial interests have influenced BBC coverage or the subject matter of programmes or the choice of items.
Most freelances are also asked to declare any commercial interests which may impinge on their work with the BBC. Independent producers should make a declaration at the time of commissioning.
Significant shareholdings should be declared by all production and editorial staff working for the BBC if they are in any way connected with the area in which they work or the subject matter they cover.
The onus is on the individual to inform the BBC if they have any interests which could be perceived as a conflict of interest. See also Declaration of Personal interests in section 7 above.
Heads of Department will be aware of particular sensitivities in their areas and may ask for particular detailed information concerning some financial or commercial interests.
Although efforts should be made to declare any interests well in advance, in some cases people will be asked to work on stories or programmes at relatively short notice and may find that they have some financial connection with the area to be covered. It is essential that presenters, reporters and production teams should have no significant connection with products, businesses or companies likely to be featured in the programmes they make or the stories they are covering. If they have any financial, commercial or business interest which might involve a conflict of interest or might be perceived to involve a conflict of interest they must inform their editor or Head of Department as soon as they become aware of the potential conflict . If the editor or Head of Department considers that there could be a real or perceived conflict of interest, they should deploy another journalist or programme maker.
There are specific restraints on financial journalists. Anyone who is working on an edition of a current affairs programme or factual programme which is dealing with finance or business is in effect involved in financial journalism.
Additional rules apply in this area. On no account must early information acquired in the course of BBC programme work be used to trade ahead of the markets. It is illegal and unethical.
Clear advice on this area is given in the Guidance Note on Financial Journalism, and from the Editor, Economics and Business Centre. This specific additional guidance for financial journalists must be adhered to. It protects the integrity of the BBC's output in this area.
It is also important to remember that there are particular legal constraints which affect financial journalism. It is vital that no BBC financial journalist ever calls their integrity into question by appearing to promote any financial product or investment, especially if they or members of their immediate family have a financial interest in that product or investment.
In some cases the commercial activities or interests of presenters could lead to a conflict of interest. To avoid this, presenters must declare to their relevant Talent Rights and Negotiations Group manager and the relevant BBC senior editorial executive prior to the signature of any BBC contract any commercial or other relevant interests which may impinge on their on-air role or which are connected with the subject matter of the programme they present. In some cases, particularly for presenters of journalistic or factual programmes, commercial interests may be deemed incompatible with their on-air role.
Some contributors, who are not necessarily presenters, may play a significant role in a programme or series. In such cases the BBC may decide that they need to be subject to the same restrictions as presenters in that genre, and must declare any commercial or other relevant interest which may impinge on their on-air role.
In specialist popular and classical music programming some presenters or freelance producers have been engaged by the BBC for their expertise and knowledge of the industry. Such talent may have links with artists and the recording industry. They may themselves be recording artists or record producers. Therefore particular care needs to be taken with regard to commercial or outside interests.
A range of suitable editorial safeguards should be put in place in BBC Radio music stations and in BBC Television and Online to ensure that those working in these areas declare all relevant outside interests. It is important to ensure those interests cannot unduly influence editorial decisions, such as choice of music played on their programmes.
Playlists should be overseen by senior management and regularly reviewed to ensure that the music choices stand up to editorial scrutiny. All such arrangements must be signed off by station management and must be discussed with Editorial Policy.