BBC Editors are editorially responsible for all the content they supervise.
All BBC content producers and Editors should expect to discuss editorial matters with more senior managers, as appropriate, and those senior managers should expect to engage in such discussion.
BBC Editors may, and sometimes must, formally refer matters to more senior managers or specialist teams within the BBC. When such referrals are made, both parties should understand that a formal referral is being made, and a record kept unless there are good reasons not to.
There may also be circumstances, perhaps due to conflicts of interest, when it is appropriate to establish a separate, or second, chain of command; clarity and a formal record should be agreed.
BBC Editors should expect to be consulted by their content production teams, and must support their teams.
Guidance in Full
BBC Editors edit. Editors (a generic term for all those responsible for a programme or other significant element of BBC content, such as executive producers, commissioning executives, etc) make the decisions, and are held accountable for the content they supervise. If, for any reason, editorial responsibility for a particular decision is being taken – or given – to anyone other than the editor, that must be explicit and normally recorded (eg by email).
The BBC has a number of specialist sources of advice and information. These include Editorial Policy, Editorial Legal, Child Protection, the High Risk team, International Filming Advice, Fair Trading and others. The Editorial Guidelines, the law and common sense sometimes require reference to such specialist teams. They do not “sign off” decisions – they offer advice and guidance, but Editors (and, where there have been appropriate references, their line managers) remain responsible for their content.
If an editor wishes to go ahead despite specialist advice to the contrary, the decision should normally be recorded and referred to a senior editorial figure, who may decide it is a matter for a divisional director.
Line Management Referrals
Content production is a collaborative process, and Editors will be having discussions both with members of their teams, and with their managers, in the ordinary course of production.
There are some decisions, however, in areas of particular editorial sensitivity (which the Editorial Guidelines describe as Mandatory Referrals), when Editors must follow the referral route to a senior editorial figure in their division. There will also be occasions when the editorial decisions of an Editor may have wider implications – for the division concerned, or for the BBC as a whole.
Such discussion is normally for the purpose of advice and information. An Editor making such a referral remains responsible for the decision, unless it is explicitly being transferred to the senior editorial figure.
When Editors and other content producers do refer matters to more senior figures for a decision (not just advice or normal editorial discussion), the referral should be explicit and recorded (an email will usually be sufficient), regardless of whether it is to a direct line manager, a head of department, a divisional director or the Director-General. It should be clear which issues or decisions are being referred for higher level sign-off.
In all cases, there should be clarity over who has the responsibility for the decision.
Second line of management
There may be occasions when, perhaps through a conflict of interest, it is necessary to establish an alternative chain of command for decision-making. Where this is necessary, the switch should be explicit and formally recorded. It should be clear which decisions or editorial areas are included and which are not. It should also be clear when such an arrangement begins and ends.