Section 6: Fairness, Contributors and Consent
Sometimes information the public should know is only available through sources or contributors on an 'off-the-record' or anonymous basis.
When we grant a contributor or source anonymity as a condition of their participation, we must clearly agree the extent of anonymity we will provide. It may be sufficient to ensure that the contributor or source is not readily recognisable to the general public, or they may wish to be rendered unidentifiable even to close friends and family. We should keep accurate notes of conversations with sources and contributors about anonymity. A recording is preferable where possible.
We must ensure when we promise anonymity that we are in a position to honour it, taking account of the implications of any possible court order demanding the disclosure of our unbroadcast material. When anonymity is essential, no document, computer file, or other record should identify a contributor or source. This includes notebooks and administrative paperwork as well as video and audio material.
Effective obscuring of identity may require more than just anonymity of a face. Other distinctive features, including hair, clothing and voice may need to be taken into account. Blurring rather than pixilation, which can be reversed, is the best way of ensuring anonymity in pictures. When disguising a voice, using a 'voice-over' by another person is usually better than technically induced distortion, which can be reversed, but audiences should be told what they are hearing.
To avoid any risk of 'jigsaw identification' (that is, revealing several pieces of information in words or images that can be pieced together to identify the individual), our promises of anonymity may also need to include, for example, considering the way a contributor or source is described, blurring car number plates, editing out certain pieces of information (whether spoken by the contributor or others) and taking care not to reveal the location of a contributor's home. Note that, in some circumstances, avoiding the 'jigsaw effect' may require taking account of information already in the public domain.
We may need to disguise the identity of international contributors to meet our obligations of anonymity or if their safety may be compromised. Third party websites may reproduce our content globally without our knowledge or consent.
(See Guidance: Anonymity)
Search the site
Can't find what you need? Search here