Digital guidelines

Key points

  • Content published on the internet is subject to the same laws as to broadcast or printed media.
  • Channel 4 content published on our websites, Channel 4 streaming and Channel 4’s pages on social media platforms should comply with our common accepted standards as set out throughout the 4Compliance site.


Channel 4’s Digital Guidelines highlight the main legal and compliance issues which may be relevant to content creators creating social and other digital content. This is an internal document setting out processes and procedure.

However, the content that you are creating must comply with the best practice set out in the 4Compliance website. You should be familiar with the information on 4Compliance and accompanying guidelines prior to producing content that will appear on Channel 4 platforms.

If you have any doubt at all about compliance issues with a piece of content you are working on, please refer up to your Legal & Compliance contact.

Tips for content creators – how to use social media in content

Where a call to action is used within content, it should be clear to users, either from the call to action itself or the context of the call to action, how solicited content will be used. The requirements of a call to action will vary between social media platforms and the nature of each piece of content. A level of understanding by users of the way calls to action work can be assumed.

Keep in mind:

  1. The use of the social media platform logo (e.g. X, formerly Twitter bird or Facebook/Instagram logo) should not be unduly prominent. This means that it should only be shown briefly, not excessively throughout the content, and must be editorially justified. For example, if you were planning on showing a succession of Tweets you should only show the bird logo on the first Tweet.
  2. The use of time and date stamp depends on the immediacy of the Tweet or post itself. If you have a call to action in content, and it is clear that you will be using the solicited material within that particular content, then you do not need to use the time and date stamp.
  3. The use of a profile picture will again depend on the immediacy of the solicited material. A user’s profile picture is usually public facing. In most cases where it is clear in the call to action or from the context of the call to action how the solicited material will be used, it should be OK to include the user’s profile picture. This is by no means a blanket rule and the specific circumstances of each profile picture should be considered. Examples of content in a profile picture which will require prior consent would be the presence of children or copyrighted material.
  4. Where possible you should provide attribution to the person who created the content; however, the use of a user’s handle or username will depend on whether it is appropriate or not. Most social media sites do not prevent people from creating handles or usernames that may be obscene or offensive, so be on your guard! Also see the below guidance specifically relating to attributing historic comments. Appropriate due diligence should be undertaken to ensure that the content featured in a social media post is the account owner’s own.
  5. If you have solicited for material and plan to display it in the content, where possible you should not edit or obscure the Tweet or post. If you do need to edit the solicited content in any way you must ensure you do not change the overall context of the message, e.g.: I love Donald Trump in the apprentice, he always speaks the truth to these contestants. - 25/11/10’ (original). I love Donald Trump, he always speaks the truth’ (edited). The comment which is edited and has no date stamp completely changes the meaning of this message.
  6. Providing your call to action is clear about how the material will be used, you do not need to promote a link to Terms & Conditions.

Attribution of historic comments

If you do not have a call to action in the programme or online content and you are planning to show historic social media comments (i.e. not made in response to a specific call to action), you should consider if it is appropriate to display the user’s social handle alongside their comment and/or whether you should seek permission from them to display their comment and handle. 

A few examples with the approaches to be taken are below although this should always be assessed on a case by case basis:

a) If you are planning to show a contributor’s social media post, and you have their permission to do so (preferably written permission), the handle/name of anyone who has commented on that post will most likely need to be blurred. When posting their comment, they will not have envisaged that it would be broadcast/published in our content. 

b) If you would like to display a social media comment and attribute it to the person who wrote it, provided that the comment is not controversial in nature and carries no risk whatsoever AND they have used the content's hashtag, you do not need to contact them for permission to use their comment or handle.

c) If you would like to display a social media comment and attribute it to the person who wrote it, and the comment is or could be controversial in nature, you should generally contact that person to ask their permission (preferably written permission) to include it in the content. In the event that you do not have permission but would like to show the comment, it would be advisable not to display the user’s handle as they will not have an expectation that their handle will appear in our content.

d) If you would like to display a comment which has been made by a public figure, it is not generally necessary to seek their permission given their public standing, but you should be mindful of the date of when they posted the comment and/or if the comment is appropriate and in context. What constitutes a public figure will vary according to the circumstances, but useful indicators would be number of followers or views, whether the person has received verification from the social media platform (e.g. X, formerly Twitter blue tick), if an individual has made public comments on a particular issue in the press, etc.

Tips to share with contributors for staying safe online

The below is guidance for contributors on how to stay safe online, which should be issued to them with the release form.

Contributing to an online conversation can be exciting and rewarding when you connect with people who have a common interest, especially when those people have enjoyed something that you were part of the creation of, like content for Channel 4. However, other people may use this opportunity to say why they didn’t like it too. Being criticised is no one’s favourite pastime, so here are a few tips on how best to deal with potential criticism from online communities. The links below offer comprehensive information on the most commonly-used social networks:

1. Your privacy settings

If you don’t want people who are viewing the content to contact you directly on your social media accounts, there are steps you can take to increase your privacy settings.

However, to completely avoid seeing comments people make online, the only guarantee is to not be on social media around the time of the broadcast/publication. It is also worth remembering that any past posts/comments you have made online might be visible to the public and may invite some unwelcome comments, even unrelated to the programme or online content.

Post-broadcast/publication, please think very carefully about getting involved in a discussion about a programme or online content you are in. Avoid saying anything you wouldn’t say to a stranger face-to-face, and be aware that other social media users will have a range of views, not all of them pleasant.

2. Think twice

Consider all your comments twice before posting. Reply in haste, regret at leisure. If someone has written something you find hurtful or irritating, take time to think. Do you really need to respond? A quick retaliation could fuel an argument that might have been avoided. Consider anything you write to be permanent because it’s out there even if you’ve deleted it. If in doubt liaise with your contact at the content creator. 

3. Play by the rules

All social networks have their own standards, so look for ‘community guidelines’, ‘terms’ or ‘help’ – they are normally found at the bottom of the page:

If someone else is breaking the rules, try to avoid a public confrontation and look for the appropriate reporting procedure of the social network in question.

4. Block and ignore

You can block someone if you find their comments offensive or they’re spamming you. Learn how to do so here:

5. If it’s gone too far

If you are subject to continuous abuse or feel threatened, you should always report the behaviour to the relevant social media platform. Do not engage with the abuser or fuel their behaviour, it is likely that simply deleting an abuser’s post may be enough to encourage them to continue their campaign.

6. Direct messaging

You can find information about direct messaging on Facebook here. Bear in mind that people may talk about a private message in (or copy and paste on) a public forum, despite it being bad etiquette and often against the site’s terms of use of the communication tool. It is also worth noting that if a new user is added into the message at any time, they will have access to the full message history. On X, formerly Twitter, only people you follow can direct message you, so you can control this too (see Block and ignore above). On Instagram, if you get sent an Instagram Direct Message it will pop up as a request, which you can choose to ignore. A private message in Snapchat will appear as a notification – note that private messages on Snapchat will disappear if they are not saved. YouTube do not offer the option to private message.

Please bear in mind that, just because you’re chatting through DM/private messaging, it doesn’t mean the other person isn’t screenshotting your conversations or sharing information with others.

7. Contact and support

If your query isn’t answered here, start at the help section of the platform you’re using. Here are the main ones:

Reputable communities will offer a contact email address or online form for support and issue reporting. Generally, this is found on the website footer. If you are worried about something that’s escalating in an online community, please contact your content creator for advice.

If you are looking for something in particular, click here to go back to the homepage to use our search functionality.

To Top