Increasingly, programme makers in drama and documentary are seeking to use fictitious news bulletins as part of their story telling.
This calls for judgment on two levels:
Is the proposed use likely to undermine the BBC News brand and its reputation for accuracy and impartiality, or carry risks for the credibility of the presenter?
Is it likely to cause confusion or even anxiety in the audience?
The News Brand
Any proposal to use a BBC News set or presenter to present a fictitious bulletin should go to the Head of Newsroom who will need to make a judgement as to whether the proposal is likely to undermine the authority or credibility of BBC News, or compromise its perceived accuracy or impartiality.
It will normally be inappropriate to use a BBC correspondent in the field to front a fictitious news report. Head of Newsgathering must give approval to any proposal. If there is a case for an exception to be made, for instance in a clearly comic situation, Heads of Department must be consulted.
Avoidance of Confusion
To avoid the danger of audiences being confused as to the reality of what they are seeing or hearing, some basic precautions should be taken:
High profile presenters should not be used in their usual news setting
Care should be taken in the filming of the fictitious bulletin to give visual clues that this is not a conventional bulletin, for example, the bulletin as seen on a TV set, over the shoulder and profile shots, and so on. On-air graphics in a drama or comedy should differ slightly from the original graphics as a further visual clue to the nature of the bulletin. Similar caution should be exercised with distinctive music or other easily recognisable audio content
In drama and drama documentary, the use of music can also be a means of signalling fiction rather than fact
At every stage, the production team need to think carefully about the possible impact of the fictitious bulletin on people joining the programme late. It will often be appropriate to label the footage at suitable intervals to avoid confusion or unnecessary anxiety
If the drama features News library footage, beware of causing embarrassment, surprise or offence through the use of inappropriate or outdated footage, especially traumatic or contentious material featuring identifiable people, e.g. riots, funerals. Be alert to any legal problems. It may also be important to inform identifiable people that footage is to be used in a dramatic context so that they are forewarned about its inclusion and have an opportunity to raise any concerns they may have about it.
Responsibility for contacting BBC News for the relevant permissions lies with the Executive Producer. In the case of independent productions, the commissioning executive for the BBC should ensure the production team consult with News and help them obtain the necessary permissions.
Comedic and satirical use of news bulletins and news presenters/journalists is increasingly common in content on all media platforms. Proposals to use a BBC News set, graphics or music should be made to the Head of News or Radio News.
The proposed use of BBC presenters/journalists in comedic news bulletins on television, radio or online should be approved in advance by the Head of Newsgathering in conjunction with the relevant Head of Department.