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Editorial Reference-up Procedure

The editorial 'reference- up' procedure is at the heart of creative risk taking and compliance and it exists to ensure that difficult or fine-cut decisions on editorial and compliance issues are properly considered by the most appropriately experienced and senior editorial executives and programme lawyers within the Channel and, in the unlikely event of any disagreement concerning the programme lawyer's advice, that this is discussed at a senior level.

The key principle is if in doubt refer

Programmes


In the case of programmes initial reference-up is by the commissioning editor or deputy to their Editorial Head and then together to General Counsel - Legal, Compliance & Governance or his deputy. The Editorial Head and/or General Counsel may then take the decision to refer up further to the Chief Creative Officer.


On more contentious or sensitive programme issues, the Chief Creative Officer will also inform the Chief Executive for his final decision as Editor-in-Chief. The Chief Executive will decide whether the circumstances are so exceptional that it is necessary to inform the Channel 4 Board.

Film4


In the case of Film4 funded productions, initial reference-up is by the commissioning executive together with General Counsel to the Director of Film 4.


On more contentious or sensitive film issues the Director of Film 4 will also inform the Chief Executive for his final decision as Editor-in-Chief. The Chief Executive will decide whether the circumstances are so exceptional that it is necessary to inform the Channel 4 Board.

Online


In the case of online there are two-referral-up routes for:

  • Content and projects on Channel 4’s platforms or third party sites; and
  • Activities on social networks.


Both routes are set out in more detail in the Channel 4 Online Editorial and Compliance Protocol. In both cases initial reference-up is by the producer (internal or external) to the Head of Online together to General Counsel or his deputy. The Head of Online together with General Counsel may then take the decision to refer up further to the Chief Creative Officer.


On more contentious or sensitive online issues, the Chief Creative Officer will also inform the Chief Executive for his final decision as Editor-in-Chief. The Chief Executive will decide whether the circumstances are so exceptional that it is necessary to inform the Channel 4 Board.

Marketing


In the case of on or off-air marketing, initial reference-up is by the marketing or 4creative producer to the Head of Marketing and/or Heads of 4Creative together to the General Counsel or his deputy. The Head of Marketing and/or the Heads of 4 Creative together with General Counsel may then take the decision to refer up further to the Chief Marketing & Communications Officer.


On more contentious or sensitive marketing issues, the Chief Marketing & Communications Officer will also inform the Chief Executive for his final decision as Editor-in-Chief. The Chief Executive will decide whether the circumstances are so exceptional that it is necessary to inform the Channel 4 Board.

Legal & Compliance


In addition to the above editorial reference up procedures, there is a parallel legal and compliance procedure for programmes, Film4, online and marketing. The General Counsel, reports directly to the Director of Commercial Affairs on all significant legal or compliance risks concerning programmes, Film4, online and marketing. The Director of Commercial Affairs will also inform the Chief Executive where such risks are likely to give rise to significant regulatory or legal action. The General Counsel also has a dotted line reporting to the Chief Executive and the Chairman on highly contentious and sensitive content issues which raise significant legal and or regulatory action. See 'Issues requiring reference-up'.

Difficult and fine-cut compliance decisions


After advice from the legal & compliance department, difficult and fine-cut compliance decisions effecting programmes, online or marketing, should be referred to the Chief Creative Officer (or Chief Marketing & Communications Officer in the case of marketing or the Director of Film 4 for film 4) and ultimately to the Chief Executive. Such matters might concern a significant viewer trust or programme authenticity issue, the inclusion of potentially harmful or offensive material e.g. very strong language, explicit sexual content or graphic violence; or may relate to a difficult ethical, fairness or privacy issue. At the same time the programme lawyer will also refer the matter up to the General Counsel or his deputy. The General Counsel will refer-up to the Director of Commercial Affairs and this is ultimately referred to the Chief Executive.