Guidance

Scope

Linking is the essence of the web. BBC strategy is to turn BBC Online into a window on the web and to double monthly clickthroughs to external sites.

This Guidance Note is designed to help you select and manage suitable external links to other sites from BBC Online. It is also designed to help you select and manage suitable inbound feeds and other online sources of third party content for publication on BBC Online.

For advice on syndication, see Editorial Guidelines Section 13 Re-use and Reversioning: Syndication and Distribution on Non-BBC Channels and Spaces.

 

Introduction

The BBC's global reputation is based on its editorial integrity and independence.  Our audiences need to be confident that our decisions are influenced neither by political or commercial pressures, nor by any personal interests. We must not undermine these values by any actions which could bring the BBC into disrepute.

 

(See also Editorial Guidelines Section 14: Editorial Integrity and Independence from External Interests.)

 

The following principles apply to BBC services:

 

  • we must be independent from outside interests and arrangements which could undermine our editorial integrity

 

  • we must not endorse or appear to endorse any other organisation, its products, activities, services, views or opinions

 

  • we must not give undue prominence to commercial products or services

 

  • on air and online credits must be clearly editorially justified

 

  • we must not unduly promote BBC or BBC related commercial products and services on our public service outlets

 

  • we must never include a link on a public service website, or within the editorial content of a commercial site, in return for cash, services or any other consideration in kind

 

  • there may be no sponsorship of any online content on any BBC publicly funded Internet service. Publicly funded BBC online content may not carry advertising. The BBC's commercially funded sites may carry advertising and some limited sponsorship in accordance with the BBC's Advertising and Sponsorship Guidelines

 

Links to External Sites

Part of the BBC's role is to act as a Trusted Guide on the web. Whenever producers are creating content on a BBC site, they should actively consider which external websites it may be editorially justifiable to link to.

Editorial Justification for Linking to External Sites

Producers may wish to offer links to external sites for a number of reasons, including:

 

  • for further relevant information
  • for further background information or other key source material
  • for useful practical information
  • for further informed comment

A link must never be included on the public service site or within the editorial content of a commercial site in return for cash, services or any other consideration in kind.

All links on the BBC public service site or on the editorial pages of a commercial site must be editorially justifiable.

 

Links are not acceptable as a form of credit.

(See Guidance: Credits and Logos Online and Software Downloads)

 

Criteria for Linking to External Sites or Other Content

Criteria for linking to third party sites will vary to some extent depending on the reason for offering the link.

 

In general terms, the external site should:

 

  • be relevant to the BBC content from which a link is envisaged

 

  • meet the needs of a UK-based audience

 

  • meet the expectations of the likely audience. For example, a link from a BBC site which is likely to appeal to a high proportion of children should contain content which is suitable for children. It should not contain content which is clearly unsuitable for children. A site which creates content designed specifically to appeal to 6-12s should not normally link to a social networking site whose minimum age requirement is 13.

 

  • be regularly reviewed and refreshed where necessary

 

  • normally be free to access. However, it may be appropriate, where there is a strong editorial justification, to link to a specific subscription site. If we do, where this is practical, we should normally indicate to our users that the link is to a subscription site.

 

Factual Accuracy

We would normally link to sites which are factually accurate and of high quality. However we may link to external sites which give particular views of a person or organisation significant to a current news story. In such cases we may not be able to guarantee their factual accuracy. We should not, however, support the message, information or promotions on third party sites.

 

Examples of Appropriate Linking to External Sites

US Elections

Our online coverage might offer links to the official sites of the two main US political parties, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. It may be appropriate to add links to specific US newspaper sites and reputable political blogs. Content producers should be aware of the editorial standpoint of any newspaper or blog and aim to offer a reasonable range of editorial perspectives.

 

Band's Official Site

A link from content created about a band, for example to the band's official site, may be a useful way of offering more relevant information. Sometimes, if the home page is unduly promotional, we may wish to consider deep linking direct to the relevant editorial. But we should not normally link directly to the pages of a band's site whose main purpose is transactional e.g. selling tickets or downloads. See below for more guidance.

 

Sports Tournament

It may be appropriate to link to the sites of the competitors in a tournament, for example, to Premiership football clubs. Links to sponsors' sites are not normally acceptable and should be treated with great caution. Links from BBC pages covering events to the main pages of the sponsor's corporate site are not acceptable. In some cases however, for strong editorial reasons we may link to specific pages run by the sponsor which give further information about the event.

 

Joint Editorial Initiative

If the BBC is running a joint editorial initiative with a museum which is staging a history exhibition, it will normally be editorially justifiable to link to that museum site. But we should also consider whether there are other exhibition sites which may offer additional useful and relevant information about the same historical period or themes.

 

We should not normally link directly to the pages of a partner museum's site whose main purpose is transactional, for example, selling merchandise. See below for more guidance.

 

Editorial Checks

The producer must check the contents of the site which is signposted before adding a link to a BBC page.

 

The relevant Interactive Executive Editor should review the suitability for retaining these links as appropriate, taking into account the criteria for linking above. Our tiered approach will be based on several factors including user expectations, topicality and sensitivity of content, and whether the third party site is itself an acknowledged trusted guide. For example,

 

  • All third party links on children's sites should be regularly reviewed
  • Where the audience is likely to expect the links we offer to be to the most timely or topical sources of information, all manually selected third party links should be regularly reviewed: for example, third party links via BBC Search. (See below for guidance on editorial use of automatically generated links)
  • Where the content linked to may change in ways which could affect the suitability of the link itself (for example, issues of harm and offence on a user generated comedy site), then links should be regularly reviewed. If the relevance of the link is likely to change over time, the same applies. For example, if we have selected which mortgage comparison sites offer the best deals, our selection may need to be refreshed periodically to reflect changes in the marketplace
  • Where there are regular reviews of links, intervals between the reviews should be decided by the relevant Interactive Executive Editor
  • Links to reputable and trusted third party sources of information such as the Natural History Museum or the British Museum may not need to be reviewed as frequently
  • Links in user generated content will normally be checked to the same standard as the content itself. If the user generated content is reactively moderated, the links will normally be treated in the same way
  • We would normally rely on users to alert us to any problems with external links from BBC sites or pages which have been clearly archived or mothballed.

Where a site owner is conducting an editorial review of current or legacy content online, internal and external links should normally be checked as part of that process.

 

Where this is practical, we should consider ways to make it easy for users who find broken, stale or inappropriate external BBC links to report these to us so that we can check, update, replace or remove them.

 

We should not link to an outside site if it would be clearly inappropriate for the BBC to recommend a visit. We should ensure that the establishment of any link does not damage the BBC's reputation for editorial integrity and harm and offence issues must be very carefully considered.

 

(See Guidance: Interacting with Children and Young People Online)

 

See below for automatically generated links.

 

Removal

Content producers should be able readily to remove a link to a third party site, whenever necessary.

 

Disclaimers

We should do nothing to 'own' or support the message, information or promotions on outside sites. Where we publish a list of links we should add the standard disclaimer to the effect that "the BBC is not responsible for the contents of any other sites listed". If the links are to controversial or challenging material, it  may be appropriate to add a specific disclaimer and more information, closer to the links,  even when there are only one or two links on a page. For "in story" links to such material, for example to very sensitive content such as a gruelling account of torture, it may be helpful to alert the user to this, in context, as part of telling the story.

 

Links to Sites Which Do Not Share BBC Editorial Values

Context is important in deciding whether a link is appropriate and it is often useful to explain why we are offering the link. In some cases we may offer a link to a site which does not share our editorial values, but which offers a useful insight. For example we might link from a current affairs page to the site of a government-run national news agency so that the user can see the precise words used in a government statement.

 

Controversial Content

We must be duly impartial.  BBC sites which cover a controversial or public policy matter may offer links to external sites which, taken together, represent a reasonable range of views about the subject. We should ensure that when we link to third party sites that we take into account any concerns about potential breaches of the law, for example, defamation or incitement to racial hatred.

 

Where content is likely to cause serious offence to some users and yet there is a strong editorial justification for covering the story, it may be editorially justifiable for the BBC to link to the relevant site rather than to host the content ourselves: for example, by linking to the Danish newspaper site which was hosting the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

 

For moderation of links which are published as part of user generated content, see separate guidance.

 

(See Guidance: Moderation, Hosting, Escalation and User Management)

 

Charities

Links to charity sites have to be based on sensible editorial criteria. If one charity is in the news, it may be appropriate to establish a link to the site of that charity. But we must take care not to promote one charity above another. If we are giving advice or general information about the subject and wish to refer to a charity and there is a range of charities working in the field, we should normally link to the other significant charities working in the field as well. This guidance applies to online links offered by BBC Action Lines.

 

Programme Support

For programme support pages, an external link should be justified by the relevance and value of the material to the programme's viewers and listeners. If we give a link to an outside advice agency from a support page, we should give links to a reasonable range of other relevant agencies as well.

 

Where a consumer programme reviews a product or service, we should only offer links to the sites of the manufacturers, suppliers or retailers of any goods or services mentioned where strictly editorially justifiable. This will be more likely where the related programme or  BBC web site has conducted a proper review of the strengths and weaknesses of the product or service and, where relevant, a comparison with similar ones. Simply reproducing the promotional text or tone of marketing literature accompanying the launch of a new product or service is not appropriate and would not normally help to justify an external link.

 

Undue Prominence

The BBC must not unfairly promote any commercial organisations. Therefore great care must be taken when linking to any commercial site to ensure that we do not give the impression that the BBC is unfairly endorsing any commercial product, brand or service.

 

BBC sites with links to commercial sites should normally explain the criteria by which the links were assessed in order to avoid the impression that the BBC is unfairly endorsing any commercial product or service. It may be appropriate in some cases to offer a route for other commercial organisations to suggest relevant additional links.

 

BBC public service sites should not normally link direct to pages whose main purpose is transactional e.g. selling merchandise, downloads or tickets.

 

See exceptions below for links to buy BBC-related programme content and links to buy tickets for BBC Events. There are some occasions where we may also wish to link directly to a donations page for a BBC charity or Appeal.

 

If in any doubt, refer to Editorial Policy

 

Competitions and Prizes

We should not normally link to the web site of a supplier or manufacturer of a prize in connection with a prize or competition. In very exceptional cases, it might be done if editorially necessary. It should never be done as a condition of donating the prize.

We should not normally link to the web site of a supplier or manufacturer of a prize in connection with a prize or competition. In very exceptional cases, it might be done if editorially necessary. It should never be done as a condition of donating the prize.

 

Links from BBC Public Service to Commercial Sites

General points:

  • Links or navigation buttons from individual pages on the public service site to the BBC's commercial sites (e.g. those operated by BBC Worldwide and BBC World News) are acceptable only when clearly editorially justified. We should not be seen to promote the BBC's commercial sites and we should not link to such sites in preference to other editorially relevant sites

 

  • Links or navigation buttons from an individual public service page to a corresponding commercial page which features BBC branded products are governed by Section 14 of the Editorial Guidelines: Editorial Integrity and Independence on trails. See the section on Transactional Links below for the journey to online commercial suppliers generally

 

  • Where appropriate, an interstitial page may appear on the user's journey between the public service site and the BBC's commercial site. It will let users know that they are leaving the public service site and offer them a choice.

General points:

  • Links or navigation buttons from individual pages on the public service site to the BBC's commercial sites (e.g. those operated by BBC Worldwide and BBC World News) are acceptable only when clearly editorially justified. We should not be seen to promote the BBC's commercial sites and we should not link to such sites in preference to other editorially relevant sites

 

  • Links or navigation buttons from an individual public service page to a corresponding commercial page which features BBC branded products are governed by Section 14 of the Editorial Guidelines: Editorial Integrity and Independence on trails. See the section on Transactional Links below for the journey to online commercial suppliers generally

 

  • Where appropriate, an interstitial page may appear on the user's journey between the public service site and the BBC's commercial site. It will let users know that they are leaving the public service site and offer them a choice.

 

Transactional Links from BBC Online to Commercial Products Related to BBC Programmes

In order to act as a Trusted Guide on the web and to better fulfil our Public Purposes, BBC Online may from time to time offer users the opportunity to purchase selected BBC-related programme content from a range of online commercial suppliers.  See the Editorial Guidelines Section 14: Editorial Integrity and Independence for the principles which apply to transactional journeys from BBC Online.

 

Links to Buy Tickets

BBC programmes and sites regularly cover music concerts and tours. Linking policy to sites where users can buy tickets will depend on the nature of the event.

If it is a BBC Event (where the BBC is organising the Event and we are offering free or cost recovery tickets), then a direct link to the source of the tickets is likely to be editorially justifiable.

(See Guidance: Ticketing for BBC Events and Programmes)

 

If it is not a BBC Event (and where for example a BBC network is simply broadcasting a concert organised by someone else) then a direct link to the relevant band's site is likely to be editorially justifiable, with one more click from there to the ticket agency's site.

 

Links Repeated Across the Site

Where the BBC offers the same selection of external links across a significant section of BBC Online for a specific purpose, for example, to social bookmarking sites, we need to take special care. These sites should be carefully selected according to robust, objective criteria before publication and we should review the selection periodically. Advice should be sought before publication from Editorial Policy and, if necessary, Fair Trading.

 

Links Selected by Third Parties for BBC Online

Sites must be selected in accordance with the Editorial Guidelines and with this Guidance Note. The selection should reflect the needs of a UK-based audience. We should think very carefully before arranging for the links to go live before they have been checked by a BBC person.  The person who is editorially responsible for the pages on which the external links may appear should decide what measures are appropriate in the circumstances.

 

Automatically Generated Links

Before offering automatically generated links to external sites from BBC content, we will need to think carefully about:

 

  • whether the relevant genre of editorial content is suitable for this method

 

  • only doing this where we can select from appropriate recognised and reputable sources

 

  • which content pages may be editorially suitable for this method

 

  • how long the links should remain up

 

  • doing regular monitoring of the quality of the material on the pages or sites being linked to

 

  • legal risks

 

  • how to remove automated links from specific stories quickly

 

  • telling our users how the links are selected and who has selected them

 

  • where practical, ensuring our users can easily notify us of any broken or unsuitable links

 

Content producers should refer to the relevant Interactive Divisional Head before adding such links.

 

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