Section 14: Independence from External Interests - Introduction

Section 14.1

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The BBC’s reputation and the strength of its brand in the UK and around the world are based upon its fundamental values of editorial integrity, independence and impartiality. These values are central both to the BBC’s Public Services and our Commercial Services. Audiences everywhere must be able to trust the BBC. In order to achieve that, our impartiality, editorial integrity and independence must not be compromised by outside interests and arrangements [1]. We must maintain independent editorial control over our content.

This section of the Editorial Guidelines concerns the editorial decisions and production of BBC editorial content and related BBC activities. It should be read in conjunction with Section 15 (Conflicts of Interest), which considers how to ensure that the external activities and interests of those involved in producing content and related activities do not bring the BBC’s editorial integrity into question.

Specifically, we must not give undue prominence to products, services or trade marks, though we can refer to them and credit them where it is editorially justified. And people working for the BBC must not accept gifts or hospitality from anyone who might believe it will give them a business advantage.

The BBC will not accept product placement on its UK Public Services, and Public Services must not endorse or promote any other organisation, or its products, services, trade marks, activities or opinions.

While our Commercial Services must not promote products, services and trade marks in their content, they can make reference to another organisation, its products, services, trade marks or activities as part of a commercial arrangement. If they do, they must follow the guidelines on product placement, and on advertising and sponsorship which explain that it is not appropriate to make deals with some types of organisation.

[For Commercial Services Only] (See Section 14 Independence from External Interests: 14.3.31-14.3.36 and Advertising and Sponsorship Guidelines for BBC Commercial Services)


Editorial content is programming and other material which is broadcast, published or presented in any format, including but not limited to video, audio, stills, online text, metadata, social media and print, of any length, long form and short form. The BBC must be in control of the material. Editorial content is distinct from commercial content.

Commercial content is material which is created solely as a result of a commercial arrangement. A third party is in control of the content. Commercial content includes advertising and advertisement features, which are advertisements that are presented in an editorial style paid for by an advertiser and under their control. It is distinct from editorial content. Sponsored content, which is under the control of the BBC, is not commercial content.

Public Services are the BBC UK Public Services as set out in the BBC Charter and Framework Agreement, which are funded by licence fee revenue, and the BBC World Service which is funded principally by licence fee revenue together with agreed supplementary funding.

Commercial Services The BBC is permitted to carry out commercial activities through separate commercial subsidiaries, which operate in order to make a profit to supplement the licence fee in the running of the Public Services. They are not funded by licence fee revenue whether directly or indirectly and are undertaken with a view to generating a commercial rate of return.

Product placement is the inclusion in a programme of, or a reference to, a product, service or trade mark where the inclusion is for a commercial purpose, and is in return for the making of any payment or the giving of other valuable consideration, to any relevant provider or any person connected with a relevant provider and is not prop placement.

Prop placement is the inclusion in a programme of, or a reference to, a product, service or trade mark where the provision of the product, service or trade mark has no significant value, and no relevant provider, or person connected with a relevant provider, has received any payment or other valuable consideration in relation to its inclusion in, or the reference to it in, the programme, disregarding the costs saved by including the product, service or trade mark, or a reference to it, in the programming.

Trade mark In relation to a business, includes any image (such as a logo) or sound commonly associated with that business or its products or services.

Connected person The following persons are connected with a particular person (person includes an individual as well as a body corporate and other incorporated and unincorporated legal entities):

  • (a) A person who controls that person;
  • (b) An associate of that person or of the person in (a); and
  • (c) A body which is controlled by that person or an associate of that person.

Programme-related material consists of products or services or off-air content and activities that are both directly derived from a programme and specifically intended to enable audiences to benefit fully from, to interact with, or to extend the editorial value of that programme.

Consumer advice content is independent information which may refer to the price, availability or attributes of specific products or services, sometimes in a comparative context.

 [1] The sections of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code that relate to this are 9: Commercial References in Television Programming and 10: Commercial Communications in Radio Programming.

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