Links and Feeds
Part 2: Inbound Feeds and Embeds
In this article
Pulling third party content onto BBC Online pages is in some ways more editorially sensitive than linking externally. Following an external link takes you away from the BBC site and users have a chance to adjust their expectations in the light of that journey. But as third party content sits with BBC content on BBC branded pages on BBC Online, users are more likely to expect it to have been through a rigorous editorial examination and to comply with BBC editorial standards before being published on our site.
The person who is editorially responsible for the page on which the feed or embed appears will be responsible for the content from that feed or embed. This principle will apply whether it is a bespoke feed to a single page or a general feed to many pages.
As this material is not under BBC editorial control, the editorial owner of the relevant page or pages will need to make a very careful assessment of the risks before deciding whether and on what terms to enable the feed or embed .They will need to decide what level of editorial monitoring is appropriate and whether they have the necessary resources to carry it out.
It may be worth running a live trial outside BBC Online, or one which is only visible to BBC staff, to help assess the risks and the editorial value first.
The material may be supplied by a commercial organisation, a community of volunteers or by a single individual. It may be provided entirely by professional journalists (a Press Association feed of match reports) or it may be user generated content (blog, status update or message board comments about specific BBC programmes from third party sites which link to those BBC programme sites).
BBC Online pages which publish inbound feeds may need to be regularly reviewed and the editorial impact of any changes or updates should be considered. The frequency and depth of review should be based on an editorial assessment of the likely risks and audience expectations.
Third party content which is likely to be sensitive may need to be checked more often. Regular spot checks may also be necessary to monitor quality. In cases where the risks are particularly high, it may be necessary to check the content before it is published.
Factors to take into account when deciding whether and, if so, on what terms, to enable a third party feed or embed on BBC Online include:
- How much third party content do we intend to display. Is it a title, a short headline or a paragraph? Is it only text or will it contain stills or video content?
- The overall quality, consistency and accuracy of content provided by the supplier
- The sensitivity of the content e.g. harm and offence and privacy
- How far that content is likely to match the expectations of the users on that page
- The level of filtering and monitoring done by the supplier
- Availability of contact details for technical support on supplier sites
- The supplier's proven ability to remove inaccurate or inappropriate content or to fix a broken link promptly
- Legal risk
Where we take in content from an external supplier, we should be transparent about it with our users. They should be able to tell who is editorially responsible for third party content on our pages, where the supplier's content has come from and, in general terms, how it has been made or selected. Attribution should be as close as possible to the content in question. This can usually be done with a simple text credit. A "What is this?" or FAQ page may be useful.
If one supplier is known to favour or advocate a particular view or position, then we should normally take care to offer a reasonable range of views from different suppliers at the same time. If you are thinking of adding a single supplier whose content deals with political or public policy issues who may not generally be seen as an impartial source of information, for example, a government run health site, refer to Editorial Policy before establishing the feed.
We should be clear about what our users can do and where they should go if they see a mistake or find something offensive.
We can either take responsibility ourselves for removing or altering the feed or the content or we can direct users straight back to the site which is hosting the content. In that case, it may still be useful for us to know the substance of the user's complaint so that we can act if necessary.
Where we are importing text feeds from a site run by a community of volunteers, we should normally point our users directly to the originating website so that they can rectify a mistake at source. We may also wish to offer our users an FAQ about why we are doing this and a BBC feedback route, particularly where we are trying out new suppliers.
Where there is a bigger risk, for example where pictures are being fed live from a third party and they are due to be published immediately by the BBC, we may need to check each one before we publish it. See the risk factors above.
If the third party supplier of pictures already has proven effective measures in place and the risk to the reputation of the BBC from publication of any inappropriate pictures is low, it may be possible for us to rely instead on spot checks by the producer and an alert button.
In this case, a prominent user alert button could automatically cut the feed of a specific picture to our site immediately a user activated it, 24/7. A moderator could then check the picture later and reinstate it if the user's complaint was unjustified. Alternatively, if the material is first published on a BBC space on a third party site (for example, on a picture sharing site like Flickr), we could use the "favourite" functionality on that site to preselect suitable images to go on the feed to our site.
Feeds and embeds require the approval of the relevant Interactive Executive. If you have any doubts about what measures we should put in place, refer to Editorial Policy before establishing the feed or embed.
Inbound embeds, for example of a social networking site video player on a BBC page, may be a useful way to display non-BBC content to users of BBC Online.
It should be clear to a casual user that the embed part of the page is not under the editorial control of the BBC and is not primarily the responsibility of the BBC. But we are clearly editorially responsible for deciding what non-BBC content to embed on BBC pages and we should be alert to the possibility that the original content on the third party site may change or be removed - and to rights issues. If the content changes, we may need to remove the embed quickly.
Links from within the embed are not technically BBC links from a BBC page. They sit within a window which shows part of a page on a third party site. But these links should preferably lead directly to editorially relevant content, such as the user's profile page where that video content is hosted, rather than to a generic site home page or to other content which is not directly relevant to the video content.
Very strong third party content may require a short content label, close to the embed. We should aim to apply the same principle to third party embedded content on BBC Online as we do to our own content: that users should be able to take an informed decision about what content they wish to consume before they do so.
While third party branding is one way to signal that the content is not under the editorial control of the BBC, prominent third party branding within the embed is likely to be unacceptable. Where the embed is a bespoke or negotiated or commissioned presence, a text credit is likely to be preferable because it does not risk unduly promoting the third party.