Secret Recording


In this article

  1. Editorial Guidelines Issues
  2. Summary of Main Points

Last updated: September 2011

Editorial Guidelines Issues

This guidance note should be considered in conjunction with the following Editorial Guidelines:

  • Privacy

See Editorial Guidelines Section 7 Privacy: Legitimate Expectations of Privacy and Editorial Guidelines Section 7 Privacy: Secret Recording

  • Fairness and Consent

See Editorial Guidelines Section 6 Fairness, Contributors and Consent

  • Note-taking

See Editorial Guidelines Section 3 Accuracy

When secret recording is part of a larger-scale investigation revealing serious anti-social behavoiur or crime, the Editorial Policy Guidance Note on Investigations may also be relevant.

Summary of Main Points

  • Both stages of the secret recording process - the recording and the broadcast - may need to be assessed separately to ensure that any infringement of privacy, at either stage, is editorially justified by the public interest it serves.
  • The two stage process - considering any infringement of privacy in gathering secret recording separately from any infringement in broadcasting it - is reflected in the approval process that should be carried out before secret recording is to be undertaken or included in our output.
  • If agreements have been made about anonymity of our sources, care should be taken to ensure the secret recording proposal form does not include details that should not be made public.
  • The subject to be secretly recorded should normally be the target of any investigation, against whom there is prima facie evidence of wrongdoing or intended wrongdoing. Any attempt to secretly record people who are not involved in committing the behaviour under investigation, especially vulnerable people or innocent victims of the behaviour, will need a strong public interest justification - the ends should justify the means.
  • 'Prima Facie' evidence is the information that makes it evident, without yet providing conclusive proof, that the behaviour we are intending to capture secretly is either taking place already or is intended to take place. Without clear existing prima facie evidence the BBC will not normally carry out secret recording. The more serious the infringement of privacy in any secret recording, the stronger the prima facie evidence may need to be.
  • It is not normally appropriate to use secret recording in an investigation simply for illustrative purposes.
  • Safety issues should be considered for staff, contributors or other members of the public that may be involved in gathering the material.
  • Accurate and reliable records and notes documenting what has been secretly recorded, how it was filmed and any relevant surrounding events can be an important tool for validating the authenticity of secretly recorded material. These notes should normally be made as contemporaneously as operationally possible.

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