Guidance

Election Guidelines 2012

Election Guidelines for Police and Crime Commissioners in England (except London) and Wales.

(approved by the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee 6th September 2012)

Polling Day:  15th November 2012

 

1.         Introduction   

1.1       The Election Period and when the Guidelines come into effect      

1.2       Elections        

1.3       The Guidelines          

1.4       Who the Guidelines apply to

2.         Mandatory issues and referrals          

2.1       During the Election Period    

2.2       Polling day

3.         Due Impartiality in coverage of candidates and other political issues          

3.1       Coverage of the Candidates  

3.2       Coverage of other political issues, Parliaments, Assemblies and Councils during the Election Period      

3.3       Order of Candidates  

3.4       Items which may not require contributions from other parties or candidates        

4.         Participation of Candidates (Code of Practice)         

4.1       Constituency Reports and Debates  

4.2       Use of Candidates in issue based packages and phone-ins   

4.3       Welsh Language Services      

5.         Online, Social Media and Audience contributions

5.1       BBC Editorial Content

5.2       Audience contributions

5.3       Material from parties or candidates

6.         Opinion polls 

6.1       Reporting Polls          

6.2       Commissioning Polls 

6.3       Audience Programmes          

7.         Party Leader Interviews         

8.         Polling Day     

9.         Complaints     

1. Introduction

1.1       The Election Period and when the Guidelines come into effect

 

The Election Period for the Police and Crime Commissioners (“PCC”) elections in England (outside London) and Wales begins on 8th October 2012 (00.01- 28 working days before polling day.

 

The guidelines remain in effect until the close of polls at 10pm on 15th November, 2012.

 

However, campaigning will begin before the formal election period and, these being new elections, they may well give rise to issues differing from past elections.  Content producers should be sensitive to the need for particular care in the period between now and the Election Period and ensure when they are in any doubt that they seek advice from the Chief Adviser, Politics.

 

Nominations close on 19th October, but there is no legal distinction, once the election period has begun, between the periods before and after the close of nominations. It is now all referred to as the “Election Period” – there is no longer a “pending period”.

1.2 Elections

In England (outside the Greater London Authority), elections using the Supplementary Vote system, take place in 37 geographical police force areas.

 

In Wales, elections using the Supplementary Vote system will take place in all 4 police force areas.

 

PCCs will be elected to serve a term which ends in May 2016 (thereafter, normal elections take place every four years).

 

There are no PCC elections in Scotland, Northern Ireland or London.

 

Please note:  there is also on 15th November 2012 a Mayoral election taking place in Bristol as well as a number of Parliamentary by-elections.  For advice on coverage, contact the Chief Adviser, Politics.

1.3 The Guidelines

There is no area of broadcasting where the BBC’s commitment to due impartiality is more closely scrutinised than in reporting election campaigns.

 

A key intention of these guidelines is to encourage vigorous debate and to give candidates themselves opportunities to make their case without giving unfair advantage to one candidate or party over another.

 

 

 

These Guidelines are intended to offer a framework within which journalists:

 

  • can operate in as free and creative an environment as possible,

 

  • deliver to audiences impartial and independent reporting of the campaigns, giving fair coverage, rigorous scrutiny and due weight to the policies and campaigns of all candidates.

 

The BBC is legally obliged to adopt a Code of Practice with respect to the participation of candidates in items in BBC services about the police area in question.

 

This obligation is fulfilled by Section 4 of these Guidelines.

 

 

The BBC is also required, under the terms of its Charter and Agreement of 2006 to ensure that political issues are covered with due accuracy and impartiality. These Election Guidelines supplement the Editorial Guidelines (Chapter 4, “Impartiality and Diversity of Opinion” and Chapter 10, “Politics and Public Policy”). They should, in particular, be read in conjunction with the sections in Chapter 10 on “Reporting UK Election and Referendum Campaigns” and “Broadcasting During Elections”, which say we must ensure that:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/page/guidelines-impartiality-introduction/

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/page/guidelines-politics-introduction/

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/page/guidelines-politics-practices-elections/

 

  • news judgements continue to drive editorial decision making in news based programmes.

  • news judgements at election time are made within a framework of democratic debate which ensures that due weight is given to hearing the views and examining and challenging the policies of all parties.

 

  • when producing UK-wide output, we are aware of the different political structures in the four nations of the United Kingdom and that they are reflected in the election coverage of each nation.

 

The Guidelines are publicly available and the BBC can expect to be held accountable for their implementation during the campaign.

1.4 Who the Guidelines apply to

It is the responsibility of each editor to ensure that their content producers are aware of how the Guidelines apply to their output.

 

These Guidelines apply to any programme or material intended for UK audiences, covering any aspect of the elections and to other output areas within which the elections are taking place.

 

Any programme which does not usually cover political subjects or normally invite politicians to participate must consult the Chief Adviser Politics before finalising any plans to do so.*

 

Each programme, strand, website or channel must bear in mind the intended location of its audience in applying these Guidelines. However, each election does not take place in isolation – for instance, broadcasters in Wales who report what is happening in an English PCC election (and vice-versa) need to bear in mind similarities or contrasts which may have a bearing on their own election. UK-wide output should consider that relative levels of coverage, either for each of the elections or for political parties which may be standing in a number of different elections - could have a bearing on due impartiality relating to some candidates.

 

2. Mandatory issues and referrals

2.1       During the Election Period:

(Nb:  * = mandatory referral at all times, not just during Election Period.)

 

-          Any programme which does not usually cover political subjects or normally invite politicians to participate must consult the Chief Adviser Politics before finalising any plans to do so.*

 

-          All bids for interviews with party leaders must be referred to the Chief Adviser Politics before parties are approached. Offers of such interviews should also be referred before being accepted.*

 

-          Any proposal to use a contribution from a single candidate without any opportunity for comment or response from any of the other candidates in the same election must be referred to a senior editorial figure and the Chief Adviser Politics. (see 3.5)

 

-          Any proposal to achieve due impartiality over a series of different programmes across a station or channel must be referred to the Chief Adviser, Politics.

 

-          The BBC will not commission voting intention polls.

 

-          Any proposal to commission an opinion poll on politics or any other matter of public policy for any BBC service must be referred to the Chief Adviser Politics for approval.*

 

-          There will be no online votes or SMS/text votes attempting to quantify support for a party, a politician or a party political policy issue. *

 

-          Any proposal to conduct text voting on any political issue that could have a bearing on any of the elections must be discussed with the Chief Adviser, Politics, as well as being referred to the relevant departmental senior editorial figure and ITACU.

 

-          The BBC will not broadcast or publish numbers of e-mails, texts or other communications received on either side of any issue connected to the campaign.

2.2 Polling day (until close of polls)

  • No opinion poll on any issue relating to the election may be published.

  • There will be no coverage of any of the election campaigns on any BBC outlet.

  • Whilst the polls are open, it is a criminal offence to broadcast anything about the way in which people have voted in the election.

3. Due Impartiality in coverage of candidates and other Political Issues

3.1       Coverage of the Candidates

 

These first PCC elections take place in a particular political context; that is, without there being any direct evidence of “past electoral support” for these particular elections which could be taken into account in making appropriate editorial judgements about the “due weight” accorded to different candidates.  In each constituency, therefore, content producers should take a consistent approach to the level of coverage given to all the candidates.    In line with other elections, content producers may take account of robust and objective evidence of “current electoral support” and of any relevant political circumstances in making such judgements to attain due impartiality. 

 

The way in which due impartiality is achieved will vary, depending on the format, output and platform.  It may be done in a single item, a single programme, a series of programmes or items, or – in daily and weekly programmes - over the course of the campaign as a whole.  But programme makers and content producers must take responsibility for achieving due impartiality in their own output and not rely on other BBC content or services to redress any imbalance for them.  

 

Different programmes may, in exceptional circumstances, co-operate to organise joint coverage, achieving due impartiality across the whole coverage of a channel, station or service - but this must be referred to the Chief Adviser, Politics. 

 

In all cases, there must be clear and prominent sign-posting, appropriate references to full website details and due regard given to ensuring fairness (for instance, appropriate scheduling of interviews at different times of the day).

 

Care should be taken to prevent candidates being given an unfair advantage, for instance, where a candidate’s name is featured through depicting posters or rosettes etc.

 

Anyone who is in doubt as to how this applies to their own content should contact the Chief Adviser, Politics, for advice.

 

3.2 Coverage of other political issues, Parliaments, Assemblies and Councils during the Election Period.

The elections do not happen in isolation and other elected bodies will continue their normal activity during the campaign. Content producers need to comply with the general requirement of due accuracy and due impartiality, aware of the possible influence of any other political coverage on the PCC election campaigns.

 

This may apply to Westminster reporting during the campaign, the Welsh Assembly, the European Parliament and local government. These should continue to be covered in the normal way, though any issues relating to crime or policing in England (outside the GLA) or Wales which are discussed must be reported with care to maintain due impartiality.

 

Content producers should be alert to other politicians who are not involved directly in the elections, including ministers and shadow ministers at Westminster, intervening in issues relevant to the elections and ensure that due impartiality is maintained. Some members of other elected bodies may also be candidates in the elections; care should be taken to ensure that unfair advantage is not derived from other such political roles.

 

Where there are other major news stories, special care is needed to ensure that any political element is covered comprehensively, but also reflects the fact that we are in an election period. How this is achieved will depend on the particular circumstances of each case. For example, where there are major stories relating to crime or policing, due impartiality may be achieved by allocating more time than would otherwise be given to those politicians most closely involved, to report fully statements that tell the audience what is happening, and, on occasion, to reflect vigorous internal debates within parties on such issues.  

 

In these elections, content producers may, potentially, need to take particular care with some interventions from senior police officers and others involved in crime and policing.  Advice should be sought from the Chief Adviser, Politics.

3.3 Order of Candidates

The order in which candidates appear in packages, are introduced in discussions or feature in debates, should normally be editorially driven, or, where appropriate, may be drawn randomly. However, programme makers should take care to ensure that no fixed pattern emerges leading to any unfairness in the course of the campaign.

3.4 Items which may not require contributions from other parties or candidates

In exceptional circumstances, comments from candidates can stand alone, without contributions from other candidates in the same election, where to do so might appear insensitive or risk the appearance of a media circus. This might include interviews about a personal tragedy, a public disaster, or where the candidate concerned is an eye witness to a news incident. Any proposal to use a comment in this way must be referred to a senior editorial figure and the Chief Adviser, Politics.

4. Participation of Candidates. (Code of Practice)

4.1       Constituency Reports and Debates

 

Candidates or parties declining to take part in constituency reports or debates cannot, by doing so, effectively exercise a veto over such coverage.

 

However, this does not weaken in any way the BBC’s obligations of fairness in ensuring the audience is informed of all main strands of argument and has some access in the same output to information regarding all candidates.

 

In compiling constituency reports or, for instance, setting up debates (either as individual items/programmes or as a series) in which candidates or their direct representatives are included, content producers should take a consistent approach to the level of coverage given to the candidates.   Content producers may take account of robust and objective evidence of “current electoral support” and of relevant political circumstances in making judgements about relative levels of coverage for different candidates in the same election.

 

Programmes may decide to use either candidates or their representatives. But if one candidate is invited to take part, the other participants should, where at all possible, also be candidates (see below 4.3 Welsh Language Services). In exceptional circumstances, if a candidate is genuinely unavailable, the opportunity may be offered instead to a suitable alternative representative from within the electoral area (e.g. party official or agent) but it should normally be made clear to the audience that the missing candidate was invited and why they were unable to take part. If a candidate declines to put forward any representative the item/programme will go ahead without them.

 

Any item focussing on individual candidates which does not include all candidates in the relevant electoral area must refer its audience to the online list of candidates.   Before the close of nominations, content producers need to make every effort to ensure the list includes those who are expected to stand as candidates. Reports referring to the list of candidates before the close of nominations should make it clear that these are “known candidates so far.”  It is the responsibility of the content producer to ensure the list is available – if not, all candidates must be mentioned within the item.

 

Where candidates are appearing separately in a linked series of items, debates, programmes etc,  the full list must be available and referred to during or after each element of the series.

4.2 Use of Candidates in issue based packages and phone-ins

As well as debates or other items using candidates within a constituency, an appropriate range of candidates from different constituencies may be used in output in order to discuss together broader election issues.  This should not, however, lead to substantive unfairness for other candidates individually (for instance, by directly criticising candidates not taking part in the debate).

 

When programmes or other items decide to use a candidate in a package or debate, the other participants should, where at all possible, also be candidates in the PCC elections. (see 4.3 Welsh Language Services,). In round-table debates – including where participants may be candidates in different constituencies – reasonable references, for instance, to local policing issues, are allowed, providing there is no substantive unfairness to other candidates.

 

In order to maintain due impartiality, the choice of candidates represented should be appropriate to the item. However, care must be taken over the course of the campaign to ensure that one or more candidates are not unduly favoured at the expense of others or that a candidate being used as a party spokesperson does not gain disproportionate coverage at the expense of other candidates.

 

Candidates can be encouraged to take part as contributors to phone-in programmes about election issues.  However, it must be clear to the audience that they are speaking as candidates.

 

Care must be taken that over the course of the campaign, programmes are not giving undue prominence or undue preference to one candidate over another, or that the appearance of a candidate is causing any direct unfairness to another candidate in the same election.

 

Network programmes containing items covering the PCC elections in general, must take care to ensure that the inclusion of contributors from parties which are standing candidates in many or all the constituencies does not cause unfairness to other candidates (eg independents) standing individually in a constituency.

 

The intention of these guidelines is to encourage vigorous debate and to give a higher profile to candidates in general without giving unfair advantage to one candidate or party over another.

 

Further advice on use of candidates can be sought from the Chief Adviser, Politics.

4.3 Welsh Language Services

Some candidates in Wales are not Welsh language speakers.  For debates, therefore, at the editor’s discretion, Radio Cymru and BBC Wales programmes for S4C may draw on both candidates and their appropriate representatives.

5. Online, Social Media and Audience Contributions

5.1        BBC Editorial Content.

 

The same guidelines as those for programmes will apply to BBC Editorial content on all bbc.co.uk sites. These will apply to audio and video content as well as text content, e.g. blogs, podcasts and downloads, as well as any social media  identified with the BBC, including material that appears on sites operated by third parties.

 

BBC editorial staff and anyone involved in producing election related content must avoid compromising the BBC’s impartiality or bringing the BBC into disrepute by their activities, such as by expressing their own views on political matters, either on personal websites or social media, eg personal Twitter accounts.

5.2 Audience contributions

Audience contributions offer immediacy and interactivity to the BBC’s output both broadcast and on the web.  These contributions are an expression of opinion and are not an indication of the weight of opinion on one side or another of a question.  The range selected for inclusion must be chosen to achieve due impartiality, not by the weight of audience activity.

 

Audience contributions may come by text, social media message or email, or some other interactivity mechanism, including “vox pop”.  They may be unsolicited, or they may arise from calls to action, in either broadcast output or online.  However we receive them, content producers should be rigorous about establishing the origins of materials offered as audience contributions and take responsibility for their authenticity.   It may be necessary to verify that a contribution apparently from an individual in the public eye is genuine. Where such contributions come from candidates, that must be clearly identified.

 

We must not seek to achieve what might be considered “artificial” impartiality by giving a misleading account of the weight of opinion. All web pages prompting debate on the election will be actively hosted and properly moderated to encourage a wide range of views. Those parts of the BBC’s online presence which do not normally engage in political issues should seek advice from the Chief Adviser, Politics, before doing so.

 

During the Election Period, we must not broadcast or publish numbers of contributions received on either side of any issue connected to the campaign.

 

If contributions are edited for length, care should be taken to ensure that the contributor’s opinions are fairly and accurately represented.

 

Content producers should be particularly alert to organised campaigns or lobbying by parties, pressure groups, candidates or people acting on their behalf. If mass mailings or other organised lobbying is suspected during the Election Period, contributors may be asked to provide contact details for verification purposes.  The bbc.co.uk escalation strategy must be activated immediately, and it may be necessary to, for example, put a message board into pre-moderation or read only mode.

 

There will be no online votes attempting to quantify support for a party, politician or policy issue during the election period, nor should other quantitative methods, such as a count of the number of texts or social media contributions, be used to assess the level of support.

 

Producers must ensure that text votes are not translated into anything that could be construed either as a representation of public opinion as a whole, or the BBC’s opinion. Any proposal to conduct text voting on any political issue that could have a bearing on the elections must be discussed with the Chief Adviser, Politics, as well as being referred to the relevant departmental senior editorial figure and ITACU.

 

Journalists and moderators will have to make fine judgements between remarks that constitute robust debate and personal abuse. The general rule of thumb should be if we would not broadcast it on radio or TV, it should not be online. Filters for harm and offence and personal abuse will operate as usual, but they should not be relied on as a substitute for effective moderation.

 

Unless specifically hosting election discussions, non-news sites should direct users who want to discuss the election in message boards or comments to appropriate areas of the news site such as political blogs or relevant news articles. All election-related discussion areas on bbc.co.uk must have appropriate moderation, filtering, hosting and escalation in place.

5.3 Material from parties or candidates

BBC News Online will not normally link to PCC election-related material on the websites either of political parties or individual candidates, unless there is an editorial justification (e.g. a row caused by a prominent figure publishing policy on his/her website contradicting the manifesto on the party’s website) and then only for a limited period and mindful of any impartiality issues.  Any such links will depend on sites not giving grounds for concern regarding breaches of the BBC harm and offence guidelines or the law e.g. defamation or incitement to racial hatred.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/page/guidelines-harm-introduction/

     

BBC News Online will, where and when possible, carry lists of candidates for each constituency or links to verified lists.

 

Any speeches or other material published by or contributed by candidates or parties which are carried in full or in part must be selected on news value, while bearing in mind that due impartiality requires that an appropriate range of such material is carried.

6. Opinion Polls

Section 6 of the Election Guidelines should, where appropriate, be read in conjunction with Chapter 10 of Editorial Guidelines and the Editorial Policy Guidance “Opinion Polls, Surveys, Questionnaires, Votes, Straw Polls”, available on the Editorial Policy website. http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/page/guidelines-politics-practices-opinion/

6.1 Reporting Polls

During the campaign our reporting of any opinion polls should take into account three key factors:

 

  • they may be part of the story of the campaign and audiences should, where appropriate, be informed about them;

  • context is essential, and we must ensure the accuracy and appropriateness of the language used in reporting them;

 

  • polls can be wrong - there are real dangers in only reporting the most “newsworthy” polls – i.e. those which, on a one-off basis, may show dramatic movement.

 

So, the general rules and guidance about reporting polls need to be scrupulously followed. They are:

 

  • not to lead a news bulletin or programme simply with the results of a voting intention poll;

 

  • not to headline the results of a voting intention poll unless it has prompted a story which itself deserves a headline and reference to the poll’s findings is necessary to make sense of it;

 

  • not to rely on the interpretation given to a poll’s results by the organisation or publication which commissioned it, but to come to our own view by looking at the questions, the results and the trend;

 

  • to report the findings of voting intentions polls in the context of trend. The trend may consist of the results of all major polls over a period or may be limited to the change in a single pollster’s findings. Poll results which defy trends without convincing explanation should be treated with particular scepticism and caution;

 

  • not to use language which gives greater credibility to the polls than they deserve: polls “suggest” but never “prove” or even “show”;

 

  • to report the expected margin of error if the gap between the contenders is within the margin. On television and online, graphics should always show the margin of error;

 

  • to report the organisation which carried out the poll and the organisation or publication which commissioned it;

 

Take particular care with newspaper reviews. A voting intention poll should not be the lead item in a newspaper review and should always be reported with a sentence of context (e.g: “that’s rather out of line with other polls this week”).

 

No opinion poll on any subject relating to politics or the election may be published on polling day until after the polls have closed.

6.2 Commissioning Polls

The BBC does not commission voting intention opinion polls during election periods.

 

Editorial Guidelines say “any proposal to commission an opinion poll on politics or any other matter of public policy for any BBC service must be referred to the Chief Adviser Politics for approval”.  Care must be taken to ensure that any poll commissioned by the BBC is not used to suggest a BBC view on a particular policy or issue. A poll may be commissioned to help inform the audience’s understanding of a current controversy, but it should not be used to imply BBC intervention in that controversy.

6.3 Audience Programmes

Any programme covering elections and planning to use a live audience should consult the Chief Adviser Politics to discuss the selection of the audience and how to achieve due impartiality. All such procedures must stand up to public scrutiny.

7. Party Leader Interviews

With the exception of brief newsgathering interviews gathered on news value on the day, all bids for party leader interviews must be referred to the Chief Adviser Politics before parties are approached. Unsolicited offers should not be accepted without consultation with senior managers and a reference to the Chief Adviser Politics.

8. Polling Day

There will be no coverage of any of the election campaigns on polling day, from 6am until polls close at 10pm on TV, radio or bbc.co.uk. However, online sites will not have to remove archive reports. Coverage will be restricted to factual accounts with nothing which could be construed as influencing the ballots.

 

No opinion poll on any issue relating to politics or the election may be published until after the polls have closed.

 

Whilst the polls are open, it is a criminal offence to broadcast anything about the way in which people have voted in that election.

9. Complaints

Complaints will be handled at the appropriate level with reference to individual programme editors. The aim is to ensure that whether a complaint has come via BBC Information, direct to a programme or to a correspondent or individual journalist, from a member of the public (who may or may not be a political activist), from a senior party official or an individual candidate, the BBC’s response is properly considered, as well as consistent, robust and fair. For that reason, normally, on first receiving a formal complaint, details should be taken and referred to the appropriate person before any initial response – other than a timescale - is given to the complainant.

 

 

Anyone requiring further advice on the application of these guidelines should consult the Chief Adviser Politics:

 

Ric Bailey:       internal: 02 81805

                       mobile: 07889 852195

                       or email: ric.bailey@bbc.co.uk

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