Editorial Guidelines

1. Introduction

Our primary goal is to serve the public interest by providing impartial, high-quality, and distinctive output and services that educate, inform, and entertain all audiences.

Our Public Purposes:

  • to offer impartial news and information that helps people understand and engage with the world.
  • to support learning for people of all ages.
  • to showcase creative, high-quality, and unique output and services.
  • to reflect the UK and its values to the world.

1.2 Our editorial values

We’re trusted by our audiences, so they expect a high level of editorial judgment from us. We’re entitled to freedom of expression. This is the essence of our independence. In the absence of interference, our audience has a right to receive interesting content, information and ideas. But our audiences also expect us to balance our right to freedom of expression with our responsibilities to our audiences and to our contributors, subject to restrictions in law.

We operate in the public interest – reporting stories of significance to our audiences and holding power to account. To ensure the accuracy and reliability of all our reporting, we focus particularly on finding truth and using the highest news standards to provide a level playing field. Professional judgment and clear analysis are provided by our specialist expertise.

We are impartial, seek to take into account the views and experiences of our audiences in order to provide them with a broad perspective and diversity of opinion so that no significant part of their thoughts is ignored or overlooked. We’re not subject to any outside interests or arrangements which could affect the integrity of our reporting. In all cases or deviations from fundamental Democratic principles, there is no need for complete neutrality in our editorial standards.

To exercise freedom of expression, we need to provide adequate protection for those who are at risk and prevent an unjustifiable infringement. It is also important to respect people’s privacy.

Children and adolescents are a special responsibility for which we must protect their right to express themselves, as well as listen. We must take the utmost care to ensure that they are protected in respect of their dignity and physically and emotionally good health when contributing or participating in our production.

 As members of our audience, they have a right to access information and ideas, but we must make sure that the content which might be inappropriate for them is appropriately scheduled.

2. Accuracy

We’ve made a commitment to ensure that all its outputs are accurate. This commitment is a prerequisite for our reputation as well as the trust of audiences.

  • All of our final results, based on sound evidence and corroborated, shall be well sourced, as appropriate to the subject and nature of the product. We should be honest and open about what we don’t know and avoid unfounded speculation. In general, it is appropriate to attribute the claims, allegations, material facts and other elements which cannot be corroborated.
  • We should be careful not to deceive our audience in any way. We’ve got to avoid distorting known facts, presenting invented information as fact or otherwise undermining our audience’s trust in the content. We need to recognise and apologise for serious errors of fact, promptly rectifying them in a clear and reasonable manner.
  • In order to ensure that our information is accurate, we have been working on contacting the appropriate parties and individuals for confirmation of any tips or other information which might be received from a variety of sources. We’ll give the other party an ample amount of time, typically no more than 24 hours, to react if we get information about individual or organisation that is accusatory or negative in nature. We shall include a statement if one of the parties makes public statements in support of themselves.
  • We need to keep all notes and recordings from interviews so that we can refer to said materials when a quote or statement is disputed.
  • In case we make a mistake in a story, we will promptly correct it and include an editor’s note that explains the correction. Even though we strive to rely on our own reporting, we are always careful to properly credit other news organisations when referring to their reporting. We won’t hide the fact that we received information from another source and will provide the credit to said organisation.

3. Gathering Material

To be precise isn’t merely a matter of getting the facts correct. It is appropriate to take into account the relevant opinions and facts. In order to be able to establish the truth, all pertinent facts and information must be taken into account where appropriate.

Where appropriate to the output and wherever possible, we should: 

  • gather the material by means of firsthand sources;
  • perform a check of facts and statistics to identify the key caveats and limitations;
  • indicate the authenticity of documentary evidence and digital material;
  • corroborate claims and allegations made by contributors;
  • claims, including statistical claims, shall be weighed, interpreted and contextualised.

The achievement of adequate accuracy is paramount for content on news and current affairs, as opposed to speed. 

We’ve got to try and see the situation first hand, gather information. We should consult with firsthand sources and, as far as possible, verify their evidence where this is not possible. We need to be careful when relying only on one source. If we do rely on a single source, it should be credible, and a named, on-the-record source is always preferable.

3.1 Reporting Statistics and Risk

We should reserve the same scepticism for statistics as we do for facts or quotes and not necessarily take numbers at face value. When statistical data is part of our output, it must be clearly explained, placed into context, weighed, interpreted and, if necessary, challenged so that we can describe it in clear terms and attribute it accordingly. If necessary, the statistics should be accurate and verifiable with explanations of significant exclusions and limitations.

3.2 Material from the Internet and Social Media

 It’s very likely that information on the Internet is inaccurate even though it may seem to be from credible sources. The identity of the operator of the website may need to be verified or confirmed with the individual or organisation concerned that the material at issue is genuine.

See Guidance: Internet Research

It is important to distinguish fact from rumour, in particular, but not exclusively, on social media, where misinformation can be deliberate and where errors or rumours can spread quickly around the world, while corrections are more difficult to gain traction. Where the use is made of social media content or other internet sources to confirm a statement, it may be necessary to carry out additional checks. There should be an account for the materials we weren’t able to collect ourselves.

3.3 Material from Third Parties

Due care should be taken in respect of material provided by third parties including news providers, taking into account the reputation of the source.

  • Depend on an agency report only if it is supported by a correspondent or can be traced back to a trustworthy news agency.
  • Utilise external content provided by third parties only if it is trustworthy and reliable.
  • Broadcast third-party content from individuals or organisations who may have a personal or professional interest in the topic only if there is an editorial reason.

Any credit or attribution associated with the usage of third-party content should adhere to the appropriate credit guidelines.

See Guidance: Crediting and Labelling External Relationships

3.4 Avoiding Misleading Audiences

We’ve got to make sure our contents do not knowingly or significantly deceive our audience. For some content, we may need to specify by labelling for example, in writing or visually or with audio inputs, the nature of this content so as not to mislead. 

3.5 Sources

In order to allow our audience to assess the status of these sources of information, we should normally identify online sources of information and significant contributors and provide their credentials.

When quoting an anonymous source, especially a source making serious allegations, we must take all appropriate steps to protect their identity. Nevertheless, we must provide our audience with any information available about the source in a manner that does not misrepresent their status.

See Section 6 Fairness to Contributors and Consent: 6.3.26-6.3.31 

3.6 Online Links to Third-Party Websites

Our website links to external sites should generally lead to credible sources. If we have an editorial reason, we may link to sites that express a specific perspective of an individual or organisation that is pertinent to a current news story. In such instances, we may not be able to ensure their reliability.

See Section 4 Impartiality: 4.3.9 and Section 14 Independence from External Interests: 14.3.20

See Guidance: Links and Feeds

4. Production Techniques

When producing news, factual, or factual entertainment content, it is generally not appropriate to stage or re-stage significant events that drive the action or storyline, unless we clearly inform the audience or use reconstructions. It is also not acceptable to edit shots and sequences in a way that may mislead the audience about the events.

Commentary and editing should never be utilised to mislead the audience regarding events or the contribution of individuals. It is important to ensure that any digital creation or manipulation of material does not alter the meaning of events, impact the authenticity of genuine material, or materially mislead our audiences. We must also be cautious since digital manipulation of photographs, videos, and documents has been used to trick broadcasters.

5. Impartiality

The news of any kind should be treated impartially, giving importance to events, opinions and principal points of view. We shall always take into account our editorial values, including a commitment to impartiality, when we approach and tone news stories.

Note: these editorial guidelines as well the above-mentioned points are based on BBC standards and guidelines. You can review in detail all the information and other controversial issues regarding this matter here.