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Live Programme Guidelines

Prior to Broadcast


All Commissioning Editors should take advice from a member of the Legal & Compliance Department at an early stage when commissioning a live programme or series so that the necessary arrangements can be made.


The Commissioning Editor must ensure that the presenters selected are equipped to handle the particular demands of the live show they are presenting.


The Commissioning Editor must ensure that the appropriate members of the production team, including researchers and, if necessary, presenter(s) are adequately briefed by a member of the Legal and Compliance Department on the regulatory issues and areas of law relevant to the programme/series. If appropriate, this should be achieved by means of a seminar before the programme/series goes on air set up by the Commissioning Editor responsible for the programme/series who must be present.


Guidance notes on legal and compliance issues will generally be prepared, where appropriate, in liaison with the Commissioning Editor, summarising the legal and compliance issues and serving as an aide memoire. The guidance notes should set out the procedures for compliance both before transmission and during transmission, especially those concerning the provision of advance information by the production company to Channel 4 editorial and legal representatives about guests, subjects for discussion and other proposed content. They must also include any necessary briefing of guests by the production company about requirements for the particular programme/series given its nature and time of broadcast, e.g. briefing contributors (including bands) not to use inappropriate language pre-watershed.


The Commissioning Editor should ensure that there is an effective system in place for advance information to be provided by the production team on programme content to the Commissioning Editor and lawyer. The Commissioning Editor must also make sure that any particularly difficult items, subjects or guests are referred up in advance to their Editorial Head and/or, if appropriate, to Channel 4's Chief Creative Officer.


The Legal & Compliance Department will decide whether the programme requires a lawyer present at the recording or on a designated telephone link or for there simply to be access to the duty lawyer in an emergency. They will inform the Commissioning Editor and programme-makers of the arrangements to be made and provide contact numbers, if appropriate. The Commissioning Editor must ensure the programme-makers have adequate facilities for the lawyer to see and hear the live programme, if one is in attendance.


The production team must be made fully aware by the Commissioning Editor in advance of transmission of the "Apologies Procedure" set out below, and this should also be referred to at the briefing and in the guidance notes referred to above.


Where it is anticipated that during a live post-watershed programme potentially offensive material may arise, the Commissioning Editor must make arrangements with the Presentation department for an appropriate on-air warning to be made immediately before the start of the programme e.g. "This programme may contain strong language". The precise wording of the warning should be discussed with the lawyer for the programme.


If the programme is to have a brief time-delay between filming and transmission of the programme, the Commissioning Editor must discuss the proposals with the lawyer and ensure there is sufficient time and resources available for the necessary editing to be done effectively, and that any implications for the defence to libel for live programmes are considered.

During and After Broadcast


A Commissioning Editor or a Deputy Commissioning Editor must be present at all live broadcasts, or in exceptional circumstances, must view the programme as it is broadcast and be available on a designated telephone link to the producer, the Channel 4 duty lawyer and Presentation. The only exception to these requirements is the coverage of live sports events and premium-rate telephony quiz programming.


The Commissioning Editor must ensure there is effective communication between the producer, the lawyer, the Commissioning Editor and the studio floor to deal with any problem. If the presenter will not be wearing an earpiece, another system must be set up.


If a serious incident arises during a live broadcast, e.g. the "f" word is broadcast before the watershed, the Commissioning Editor must as soon as reasonably possible, and within 24 hours, debrief the programme makers and write up a full report of the incident for their Editorial Head, the Chief Creative Officer and the lawyer advising on the programme.

Apologies Procedure


Each incident will be different so hard and fast rules would not be practical, but these procedures should be followed unless circumstances clearly indicate they are inappropriate:


On the advice of the Channel 4 lawyer, any potential libel problem should be dealt with immediately. This may include a statement distancing the programme and Channel 4 from a libellous remark and apologising if necessary. The presenters must not make any further reference to the libellous remark in the programme.


If an inappropriately offensive or tasteless remark is made the presenter should attempt to diffuse the situation and distance the programme and Channel 4 from the remark. He or she should endeavour to apologise to viewers immediately. In the heat of the moment with a difficult guest this can be risky and should only be done if it is felt it will not cause further problems.


In the event of the use of strong language (the 'f' - word, 'c' - word or their derivatives) pre-watershed an on-air apology must be made by the presenter at the earliest opportunity. Consideration must be given by the Commissioning Editor and lawyer to whether a further apology by Presentation at the end of the programme is appropriate. If the presenter has failed to apologise, or the opportunity has passed, there must be a Presentation apology immediately after the programme.


If the Commissioning Editor and the lawyer consider that an on-air apology at the end of the programme is appropriate they should, if practical, telephone the relevant Editorial Head, or, if unavailable, Channel 4 Duty Executive or Controller of Legal and Compliance and discuss the options. If none of these individuals can be contacted or time does not permit, the Commissioning Editor and lawyer acting together can authorise an apology. The Chief Creative Officer and the Duty Executive should be informed by the Commissioning Editor that this has happened as soon as reasonably practicable.


If it is agreed that there should be an apology then Presentation should make a simple apology directly following the transmission.


An offensive or libellous remark which caused concern on transmission should be edited from any repeat and/or an entry made on the PIRATE system alerting users that the programme cannot be repeated without the requisite edit being made. Appropriate liaison should also be made urgently in respect of the +1 channel and 4Seven.