New Edition of BBC Editorial Guidelines launched today
Every four or five years the BBC revises its Editorial Guidelines (before 2005 they were called the Producers’ Guidelines). The latest edition is launched today. The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines encapsulate the values and editorial standards every producer of BBC content is expected to follow. Since 2005 they have been formulated within the context of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and, in addition, since 2006 they have been commissioned and signed off by the BBC Trust. For the first time the Guidelines have been subject to public consultation, under the auspices of the Trust.
But the Guidelines continue to be written by me and my colleagues in Editorial Policy and remain the distillation of years of programme-makers’ experience, common sense and judgements about how BBC can meet the high standards expected by our audiences. As always they are designed to help content makers confront with confidence the very many difficult judgements and ethical dilemmas faced every day.
Just as the 2005 edition of the Guidelines incorporated the lessons learned from the Hutton Report and the Gilligan affair, so these guidelines take on board the painful lessons of the serious editorial breaches that occurred in programmes using telephony and interactivity, the fakery uncovered by Queengate and the controversial Brand/Ross incident as well as other editorial developments over the intervening 5 years.
But the Guidelines also respond to the enormous technological changes and developments in the broadcasting industry since the last update. Convergence was a new concept then and is a reality now. So the previously separate Online Services Guidelines have been incorporated in to this edition and a new chapter about Re-use and Reversioning has been added to reflect the growing importance of on-demand viewing and listening and the growing use of archive.
That’s not the only new chapter. As portfolio working increases, so too do the difficulties of ensuring that the activities of content makers, and in particular on-air talent, are consistent with the values of the BBC. A reinstated section on Conflicts of Interest will help guide content makers through these challenges.
Copies of the new edition of the Guidelines are being distributed to all BBC content makers, including Independent producers from tomorrow. They come in to operation from next Monday, October 18.
The Editorial Guidelines website has been completely revised and its 50+ pieces of editorial policy Guidance will be given new prominence. The Guidance is important information for programme makers about how to meet the standards in the Guidelines. The Editorial Guidelines website is publicly available.
The Editorial Guidelines website will also contain links to new Editorial Policy online interactive modules, which have been constructed in partnership with the BBC Academy. The modules are bite size guides to the Guidelines, between 8 and 20 minutes long, in which the guidelines are explored through interactive dilemmas. They are designed to give a basic understanding of editorial policy in areas like Accuracy, Impartiality, Harm and offence, Fairness, Privacy, Children as Contributors and Conflicts of interest. There are 20 of these modules so far. The number will be added to over time.
All of this demonstrates the importance the BBC attaches to its editorial values and its editorial standards. They are crucial to the BBC’s relationship with its audiences and the trust audiences place in us. Nothing could be a greater recommendation for their use and usefulness.
David Jordan is Director of Editorial Policy