The BBC and independent production companies working for the BBC produce and license a range of commercial products and services to enhance and extend the editorial offering of our output to audiences. The BBC may only trail products and services which specifically relate to our editorial output and clearly extend the editorial offering to our listeners.
This guidance outlines the approach the BBC will take when assessing the suitability of trailing BBC Programme-Related commercial products, materials or services on its public service Network Radio stations. They apply equally to BBC Programme-Related Material produced by BBC Worldwide and by third party publishers to complement BBC broadcast output.
There are legal and regulatory constraints regarding on-air references to BBC related commercial products. This guidance incorporates the principles set out in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, and the BBC’s Fair Trading Guidelines.
This Guidance covers specifically agreed trails and announcements on Network Radio stations for suitable programme related material, and any trails for commercial products, materials and services related overall to a Network Radio station. Apart from agreed and scheduled trails, any other mention within programmes or other editorial content of BBC related commercial products, materials or services would only be in exceptional circumstances and must be strictly editorially justifiable and non-promotional with no element of plugging. Any such mention must be in accordance with the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines.
References to non BBC related products, materials or recordings
Commercial products which are not clearly related to BBC output may not be trailed. Any references to non-BBC related commercial products, such as commercial recordings, within programmes or editorial content must be strictly editorially relevant and non- promotional in accordance with BBC Editorial Guidelines concerning undue prominence (See section 14.4.4 -14.4.8). In some cases there may be specific guidance for individual Radio stations on editorial references to commercial recordings. Such guidance for individual stations will have been agreed with the relevant Channel Controller, the Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music and Editorial Policy.
2. Key Principles for Trailing BBC Related Products, Materials or Services
We must never give the impression that we are unduly promoting any commercial product or service on air or online. All trails must be in accordance with this detailed guidance
Trails or announcements of the availability of BBC related products, materials or services must give only simple factual information without any element of hyping. They must never sound like commercial advertisement
Where stations have continuity, trails must be voiced by continuity announcers or the equivalent and not presenters
BBC magazines must not be trailed on BBC radio, television or online.
BBC-related books, recordings, DVDs, CDs and CD-ROMs, and digital products such as downloads which are directly related to BBC editorial output are the types of products which may be trailed where appropriate. No BBC Programme-Related Materials other than those listed above and no other type of commercial product will be trailed - toys, novelty items or entertainment games must not be trailed. The only exception to this might be in relation to merchandise for BBC charity appeals such as Red Nose Day or Children in Need (see section 4 below)
Some BBC Programme-Related Materials that use game formats but have been designed specifically for clearly educational purposes may under certain circumstances be trailed. Editorial Policy must, however, be consulted in advance.
Any BBC Related Commercial Material which is trailed must be:
Directly relevant to the programme strand, or editorial outputafter which it is to be trailed
Under the BBC's editorial control
Commissioned, licensed or developed directly in conjunction with the associated programme or station
Consistent with the BBC's editorial and ethical values
Material which is trailed may be published by BBC Worldwide or by an outside organisation under licence. It is important that trails do not unfairly favour BBC Worldwide published product
If a book is to be trailed, the relevant BBC editor or commissioning editor must have approved the copy and confirmed that it is sufficiently editorially related to the BBC output
When novels or other existing books are serialised on radio, we may not trail them because they have not been commissioned licensed or directly developed by the BBC
Commercial products, materials or services may not be trailed after acquired programming
The total quantity of on air trails for BBC related commercial products, materials or services on BBC public service radio and television services is restricted for Fair Trading reasons. In any seven day period, commencing 0600 on Saturday, the combined duration of such trails on BBC public service radio and television must not exceed seven minutes.
3. Referrals and Responsibilitiess
All trails of BBC related commercial products, materials and services on BBC Network Radio Stations must be approved by Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music and the station Controller or their nominated deputy.
Head of Editorial Standards Audio & Music should be consulted in the first instance about the suitability of the product to be trailed, and where it may be trailed, and will also approve the recorded trail or the script for live trails.
In particular circumstances detailed in this Guidance, and in any other cases of difficulty, Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music will consult with Editorial Policy and/or Fair Trading.
The Head of Editorial Standards will liaise with Media Planning BBC Vision concerning the number and timings of trails over a seven day period to ensure that the combined duration of trails across BBC public service Television and Radio can be calculated and recorded.
4. Editorial Criteria for an On-Air Trail
BBC related commercial products, services or materials may only be trailed if they are directly relevant to the preceding programme. To be “directly relevant” a product must satisfy the following criteria:
Books and audio recordings of BBC programmes
In order to merit a trail, a book or audio recording must be the official publication of the programme or series.
For books this could also include a novelisation based on the BBC intellectual property of the programme, an official guide to the characters in a series or a factual book extending the audience understanding of a series such as history documentary strand. Novelty BBC programme-related materials such as sticker books or calendars will not qualify for a trail. If in doubt refer to Editorial Policy.
A publication should normally have the same title as the programme or series, or a title closely related to it. Where the title differs in any way, or includes a sub-title, advice should be sought from Editorial Policy as it is important that it is clear that the book is clearly related to BBC output.
For the avoidance of doubt “masthead” publications may not be trailed. This means that if a BBC programme or series is based on a pre-existing book, the book may not be trailed on-air. In the case of literary adaptations the book may not be trailed on air, even if stills from the BBC drama production are used on the cover.
Books related to a range of BBC radio programmes or more generally to BBC radio output
In some cases it may be possible to trail a book related to more than one radio programme e.g. a history of BBC radio comedy or a history of a specific network channel, provided it is trailed after relevant current output. Any such trail must be expressly agreed with Fair Trading and Editorial Policy.
The Proms Guide
The Proms Guide is not a commercial publication and may be mentioned where editorially relevant within editorial output or programme junctions. Advice on this may be obtained from Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music.
Audio books directly connected with radio output may be trailed under the same provisos as printed books as long as the audio book has been licensed, commissioned or developed directly by the BBC and the editorial content of the audio book has been overseen and signed off by the relevant executive producer.
Audio Recordings of a programme or series
Audio recordings of programmes or series may be trailed when appropriate. (For the avoidance of doubt, such audio recordings could include compilations of clips from various programmes in a series).
These recordings may also include a minority of additional material, which was not broadcast as part of the original transmission. Any such extra material must also comply with guidance on additional material on products (which can be obtained from Editorial Policy).
PC CD-Roms and other computer formats
Educational BBC Programme-Related Material on computer formats may be trailed if it is directly relevant to the programme after which it is trailed, i.e. it should have the same title as the programme; it must use the programme intellectual property (characters, scenarios etc.). In addition it must be designed to have a specific educational/learning purpose.
Entertainment games which have not been designed for a specifically educational purpose will not be trailed on air.
Albums and Soundtracks
Music soundtracks may be trailed if they are directly relevant to the preceding programme. They must have the same title as the programme or series; they must consist of the music of, or the music from, the programme – which may include the soundtrack of the series.
In certain circumstances the BBC may commission or co-produce special performances of musical events such as concerts, operas or ballets. In such cases it may be possible to trail a recording of that event after the programme which covers the event. Not all such BBC programme-related Materials, however, will qualify for a trail. Reference must be made in advance to Editorial Policy before any trails can be granted.
On occasion Network Radio may wish to produce an album or collection of downloads directly related to a particular programme or strand within a programme, or to the overall network station. In such cases referral must be made to the Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music and also to the relevant station controller. Editorial Policy and Fair trading must also be consulted. It must be clearly demonstrated that there is a justifiable editorial connection between the album/download and the programme, strand or station, for example a series of live sessions recorded specifically for performance on the BBC would qualify. There can be no element of “brand slapping”. If the editorial connection does not stand up to scrutiny the product will not be acceptable and cannot be trailed.
BBC Programme-Related Materials and children
We do not have specific children’s output on Network radio and therefore will not trail children’s products. Care must be taken on stations with a high potential child audience not to trail products in such a way that the trails appear to be directed at children.
Charity Linked BBC Programme-Related Materials
In certain limited circumstances BBC Programme-Related Materials may be produced to help raise funds for a BBC charity initiative such as BBC Children in Need, Comic Relief, or Sport Relief. Some of these BBC Programme-Related Materials may be of a “novelty” nature. Such fund-raising BBC Programme-Related Materials may be trailed on-air in accordance with the BBC’s policy on charity fundraising initiatives.
All requests for any trail of charity linked BBC Programme-Related Materials must be referred to Editorial Policy, well in advance as these need special consideration.
5. Style of Trails
Trails or announcements after programmes should give simple factual information without any element of hyping. In addition the trail or announcement:
- Must be objective and must not seek unduly to promote BBC related commercial products, materials and services
- Where stations have continuity junctions, trails must be voiced by continuity announcers or the equivalent and not presenters
- Must not include price information
- May not include non BBC URLs, and retail /mail order or other purchase information
- May state the connection between the product and the immediately preceding programme, or strand
- Should be short and informative and there should be no element of hype. They should normally be less than 20 seconds in duration. The message must be separated from other editorial information and content
- Care must be taken about the use of music beds. No music from the album or download being trailed may be used. The bed must not be used in such a way as to merge editorial messages such as general information about the programme with the programme or station-related product related product information
- Excerpts from programmes may not be used in trails for programme related products
- Trails must never sound like an advertisement
- Trails must not include slogans
- Trails may include details of the general retail availability of the BBC related commercial products, materials and services. However where such details are provided this must be done on a non-discriminatory basis. Therefore we will not normally reference any specific retailer. Any proposal to do so for exceptional reasons must be referred to the Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music who must consult Editorial Policy
- For a download we would not exclusively trail availability on the BBC when there are other outlets available. We may however include a generic reference to the relevant BBC website for further information
- Presenters may not voice a product trail if they have any direct financial interest in the BBC related product, material or service, e.g. if they are the author of the book, or have a revenue share in products. (For example, where the programme to which the trail relates is made by an artist or talent owned independent production company, the presenter may have a revenue share of any profits from commercial activities associated with the programme.)
- In some cases references to more than one commercial product e.g. a book and an audio recording, may be made in a single radio trail, which may be scheduled after the programme to which they are directly relevant, as long as all the products meet the criteria outlined in this guidance. Normally, there should be no more than two BBC programme-related materials referenced in one trail. Such proposals should be agreed with the Head of Editorial Standards who will consult with the station controller prior to the start of the relevant series.
- It is possible to trail the official publication(s) or audio books of a series of programmes during the following series of the same programme. For example, it is possible to trail an audiobook of Series One of a comedy programme during Series Two.
6. Position of Trails and Announcements for BBC Programme-Related Materials
There can be no promotional mention of BBC related commercial products, materials or services within programmes unless it is in an approved trail format and slot.
For the avoidance of doubt, programme-related material may not be trailed after acquired programming.
As a general rule, no commercial product trails are scheduled on Christmas Day or on New Year's Day. Any proposed exceptions must be referred to Director Audio and Music who may consult BBC Editorial Policy.
The acceptable positioning of trails and announcements for BBC programme-related material will depend on whether the Station has continuity junctions. The following will apply:-
On Stations which have continuity junctions
BBC Programme-Related Materials can only be trailed after BBC commissioned programmes.
Product trails may only be broadcast after the BBC programme to which it is directly relevant.
Only one trail for BBC related commercial products, materials or services may be placed within a continuity junction. Where there are competing demands for acceptable BBC related materials to be trailed in the same junction, the Station Controller, in consultation with Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music, will decide which trail request to accept. For Fair Trading reasons, to ensure there can be no perception of unduly favouring one publisher above another, BBC Audio and Music will also make best endeavours to ensure that a product which was refused an on-air trail on grounds of there being a competing request is trailed in another slot following a relevant programme. However, this will only be possible if the request clearly meets the criteria of this guidance and no guarantee can be given that the product trail will be broadcast.
If a one-off programme has a directly editorial BBC related commercial product, material or service then this may be trailed at the end of that programme. (For advice on series see section 7 below)
On Stations which do not have continuity junctions
Some Stations e.g. Radio 1 do not have continuity junctions between programmes and this makes the placing of trails and programme related product announcements particularly challenging.
Ideally such announcements or trails should still be placed at the end of the programme to which the product or service directly relates.
The trail or announcement may be voiced by the presenter of the relevant programme unless the presenter has a direct financial interest in the product or service. In such cases another voice should be used. This could be an alternative presenter from the same programme who does not have a direct financial interest.
Unlike most television programmes, radio shows often last for several hours. Therefore in some limited cases there may be an exception to the prohibition on placing trails within programmes. Where a programme is of several hours in duration and where the product or service relates specifically to only one regular section or strand of the show, for example Popmaster on the Ken Bruce show, it may be possible to place a trail at the end of the relevant strand. This is to ensure that the audience receives the information at a relevant position in the output. There has to be clear separation between the trail and editorial content, the two should not be merged. Trail information should be given in an entirely factual and non-promotional manner.
The aim should always be to reduce any perception of undue promotion. Any such references must be approved in advance by the station controller, who must discuss with Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music, Editorial Policy and Fair Trading, who must agree the precise style, tone and wording of such announcements.
7. Quantity and Frequency of Trails
In line with Fair Trading commitments, the total quantity of BBC related commercial product trails broadcast in any seven day period on all the BBC’s public service television and radio services, commencing 0600 on Saturday, must not exceed seven minutes.
Trails should not normally be scheduled after every programme in a series. The level of trails scheduled across a series will be at the discretion of the Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music and Director Audio and Music. However the BBC would normally expect the following guidance to apply; (for the avoidance of doubt this guidance applies on a station by station basis, i.e. the repeat run of a series on another BBC station could also carry trails with the same frequency as outlined below).
Directly relevant BBC related commercial products, services or materials may not normally be trailed after the first episode of a series of programmes, usually they may be trailed for the first time at the end of the second episode of a series aired weekly. However if the BBC related commercial product is related to a previous series of the programme it may be trailed at the end of the first episode of the subsequent series.
There will be a limit to the number of product trails acceptable per series of programmes. Typically in a series of 8 programmes there would be no more than two BBC related product trails.
Where a series is stripped daily across the schedule referral must be made to Editorial Policy, who will advise on when it is suitable to begin trailing.
For continuing series, with three or more weekly episodes- e.g. The Archers – no more than one trail every two weeks
For continuing series (or shows on a long term run of more than 13 weeks), broadcast weekly or twice weekly – no more than one trail every three weeks
Series of 13 weekly parts – maximum four trails over the run
Series of less than 13 weekly parts – maximum of three trails over the run.
Any proposal to run product trails more frequently or as part of a scheduling pattern not listed above should be referred in advance to Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music.
8. Retailers Availability and Radio and Television Advertising
The BBC, its commercial partners or its licensees cannot be seen to be advertising BBC related commercial products, services or materials on commercial radio or television and trailing them on BBC public service channels at the same time. The purpose of a trail is to inform licence fee payers of BBC related products that can enhance and extend the audience’s enjoyment and understanding of the original programme; if the product is being advertised commercially this brings into question the need to trail it as a public service activity. The BBC does not believe it is appropriate to do both concurrently.
BBC Programme-Related Materials may not be trailed if they are advertised on television or radio within six weeks on either side of the proposed trail. This applies only to television or radio adverts commissioned specifically by the publisher and does not apply to television or radio adverts by retailers that include the product as one of several titles featured in a sales promotion by that retailer (over which the publisher may have little or no control). For the purpose of this guidance “featuring several titles” means featuring more than two titles.
BBC Programme-Related Materials should normally be on sale (e.g. in retail outlets or online) at the time of the trail. However, where the product relates to a one-off programme, a trail will be acceptable as long as the product is available the next working day.
9. Requests For Trails
The agency submitting the request for a trail e.g. BBC Worldwide or the Commercial Agency should, as part of its application for a trail, provide a description of how and why the product meets the test in these guidelines. If requested they should be able to provide documentary evidence of the editorial linkages between the products for which a trail is being requested and the BBC programme preceding the proposed trail.
All requests to trail BBC related commercial products, materials and services on BBC Network Radio Stations must be referred in the first instance to Head of Editorial Standards, Audio & Music who will consider the suitability of the product to be trailed.
All mentions of BBC related products in trails are at the discretion of Station Controllers in consultation with the Head of Editorial Standards, Audio and Music.
If it is agreed to proceed with a trail, Head of Editorial Standards will also agree where it may be trailed, and will also approve the recorded trail or live script.
No trail is guaranteed and no contract should promise an on-air trail.
In cases of difficulty Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music will consult with Editorial Policy and/or Fair Trading.
10. Keeping Records
BBC Audio and Music must keep records on the number and timings of trails for all commercial products for the BBC’s Annual Report and Accounts. It also must compile records of all trail requests received and the outcome of the application. The records should include details of the application e.g. the scheduling, its duration, the programme after or during which the trail is requested, the product to be trailed and, where the trail request is accepted, the editorial rationale for each trail. The justification for rejecting a trail request should also be recorded.
The Head of Editorial Standards Audio and Music will be responsible for liaison with Media Planning for BBC Vision so that the overall number of trails in a seven day period across BBC public service Television and Radio can be calculated and recorded. We must ensure that we do not exceed the maximum amount allowed under our Fair Trading commitment across all the BBC’s public services in any seven day period.