Section 6: Fairness to Contributors and Consent - Introduction

Section 6.1

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The BBC strives to be fair to all – fair to our audiences, fair to our contributors and potential contributors, fair to sources and fair to those our output is about. Our content should be based on respect, openness and straight dealing [1]. We also have an obligation under the Ofcom Broadcasting Code to ‘avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes’ [2].

Much of this section concerns the process of recruiting those who participate in or are otherwise involved in our content, and it should be considered alongside Section 7 Privacy: Privacy and Consent.

Material inaccuracies in the way people are referred to, or featured, may risk causing unfairness. This applies not just to factual output (for example, when representing the views of, and information about, others) but also to drama portraying real people or organisations. Consequently, this section of the Guidelines should also be read in conjunction with Section 3: Accuracy.

We will be open, honest, straightforward and fair in our dealings with sources, contributors, potential contributors and audiences unless there is a clear public interest in doing otherwise, or we need to consider issues such as legal matters, safety, or confidentiality.

We should normally seek the informed consent of our contributors. Individuals and organisations should be appropriately informed about the planned nature and context of their contributions before they participate unless there is an editorial justification for proceeding without their consent.

When our output contains allegations of wrongdoing, iniquity or incompetence or lays out a strong and damaging critique of an identifiable individual or organisation, those criticised should normally have a right of reply, unless there is an editorial justification to proceed without it.

We owe due care to our contributors or potential contributors, as well as to our sources, who may be caused harm or distress as a result of their contribution. Due care is the level of care that is appropriate to the individual and particular circumstances. We must judge this taking into account the editorial content, the nature and degree of the individual’s involvement and their public position, along with other relevant factors such as safety risks or whether the individual is vulnerable.

[1] The sections of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code that relate to this are 7: Fairness and 8: Privacy.

[2] Rule 7.1, the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.

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