- Some categories of contributor, such as children, whistleblowers and criminals, must not be offered payments without first discussing your plans with Channel 4.
- Where contributors are connected without legal proceedings, payments could be seen as acting in contempt of court and may therefore be prohibited.
- Any plans to pay a contributor more than £100 must be approved in advance by Channel 4.
Payments to adult contributors and interviewees are usually uncontroversial. It is perfectly acceptable to pay a fee to an expert or to pay a modest sum to an interviewee who has given up their time to be filmed. In some cases, you may also pay modest out of pocket expenses, e.g. to cover meals and taxi fares, but you need to obtain and keep receipts.
However, payment (or payment in kind) may be criticised, can undermine the contributor’s credibility, or breach the Code. Therefore, discuss any proposed payments or payments in kind with your commissioning editor and content lawyer/compliance advisor in advance.
Any proposed payment over £100 must be approved by Channel 4 beforehand. In some cases, payment may be subject to proving payment is in the public interest or it may be prohibited altogether. Payments to the following need approval from your commissioning editor and content lawyer/compliance advisor:
- Criminals or those involved in serious anti-social behaviour whether convicted or confessed, for interviews about their crimes or behaviour (see below)
- Any witness or any person likely to be a witness in criminal proceedings
- Children under 16 or a vulnerable person (e.g. those with learning difficulties or mental health problems)
- A confidential source or whistleblower
- A person secretly filmed or recorded
- An official in public office for information
Payments and under-18 contributors
Contributor fee payments should not be offered or made to under-18 contributors unless agreed in advance by the commissioning editor and content lawyer/compliance advisor.
Reasonable expenses can be paid to the parents of under-18 contributors but should not generally be made to the under-18s themselves unless in the circumstances it is justified to do so. Similarly, expenses, e.g. for loss of earnings, particularly if the amounts are substantial, should be agreed in advance by the commissioning editor and content lawyer/compliance advisor.
Production crews should be clear about what, if anything, they can buy or pay for for under-18 contributors, e.g. transport, meals, soft drinks etc., and any agreed limits on such spending. Where purchases are made, crew members should pay for the items or services themselves and provide the receipts to the content creator. Under-18s should not be given cash or gifts by members of the production team unless this has been agreed by the content creator and Channel 4 in advance.
Content creators should not purchase or give cigarettes and/or alcohol to any under-18 contributors, even if it is legal to do so.
Payments to criminals, their family and friends
No payment, promise of payment or payment in kind may be made to convicted or confessed criminals for interviews or some other contribution to the content in relation to their crimes, the only exception being where it is in the public interest.
Any proposal to make a payment to a criminal including the payment of out-of-pocket expenses should be discussed with the commissioning editor and content lawyer/compliance advisor.
Generally, payments cannot be made to criminals for interviews about their crimes. The public policy reason for this is to prevent criminals profiting from their crimes.
The Code refers to "payment", "promise of payment" and "payment in kind". This covers making (or promising to make at some future time) cash payments or any other kind of payment, for example a gift to or paying off a debt for the criminal for whatever reason. Only actual and necessarily incurred out of pocket expenses may be reimbursed.
Family members or associates of the criminal can be paid if they themselves make a contribution to the content, as long as that payment does not benefit the criminal in any way. Where family members or associates do not themselves actually make a contribution to the content, it is unlikely that payments to them will be acceptable, as this is likely to be seen as benefiting the criminal.
Decisions about whether or not to pay family members or individuals close to criminals should always be referred to the commissioning editor and content lawyer/compliance advisor.
Whether a public interest exception to these rules exists depends on a number of factors including:
- whether a payment is necessary, that is, would the criminal agree to be interviewed regardless of payment?
- the purpose of the interview or contribution to the content
- what benefits there might be in the interview going ahead
- the nature and seriousness of the crime
- the likely feelings of/the effect on the victims, if any
- the time elapsed since the commission of the offence and the content
Where, after careful consideration, such a payment is made in the public interest, Ofcom states in its guidance that it may be appropriate to inform viewers of the content that a payment has been made and the reasons why.
Payments to witnesses in legal proceedings
Content creators should refer to the Legal & Compliance department for advice wherever a witness or potential witness in legal proceedings is taking part in content.
No payment or promise of payment may be made, directly or indirectly, to any witness or any person reasonably expected to be called as a witness while proceedings are active. Nor should any payment be suggested, promised, or be linked with the outcome of a trial. Proceedings become "active" when someone is arrested or charged with an offence. See also 'Contempt' and 'Court reporting and reporting legal proceedings'.
There is no 'editorial justification' or public interest exception.
Clearly this rule only prohibits payments to witnesses/potential witnesses where their contribution to the content is connected to the legal proceedings in which they are or may become a witness.
Again, this provision covers direct and indirect payments, that is anything of monetary value to the witness/potential witness or those connected to them that would be of benefit to the witness/potential witness.
Reimbursing expenditure and loss of earnings to criminals and witnesses in legal proceedings
Only actual expenditure or loss of earnings necessarily incurred during the making of a content contribution may be reimbursed.
Any such payments must be approved in advance by the commissioning editor on the advice of the content lawyer/compliance advisor and referred up in accordance with Channel 4's internal compliance procedures, where necessary, before any payment is offered or made.
Yes. If a convicted person is taking part in content and their contribution is unconnected with their criminal past, an appropriate payment may be made to that person. However, where a convicted person is taking part in any content which is related to their crimes, no payment must be made to them unless it is justified by the public interest, any such payment having been approved by Channel 4 in advance. Modest expenses may be paid to criminals or those with a criminal past, whether or not there is a public interest but only on strict proof of the expenses incurred. Again, any such payment would require Channel 4's consent.
If they themselves make a contribution to the content, family members or associates of the criminal can be paid, as long as the criminal does not benefit from the payment. Where the family member or associate does not themselves actually make a contribution, it is unlikely that payments to them will be acceptable. Any decision to pay family members or individuals close to criminals or those with a criminal past, rather than pay the criminal themself, must be approved by Channel 4 in advance.
If you are interviewing an individual who happens to be a witness involved in legal proceedings and their contribution to the content is unconnected with those proceedings, then interviewing that person or making a payment to them for their contribution should not be problematic. However, interviews with individuals who are witnesses involved in legal proceedings where the subject of the interview is connected, even indirectly, with the proceedings need to be handled very carefully. This is to ensure that the individual's evidence isn't prejudiced by their involvement with the content.
Any such interview must not be undertaken without the prior consent of the content lawyer/compliance advisor who will advise on exactly how the interview should be handled, if it can go ahead at all.
In such circumstances, payments or promises of payments cannot be made.
If you are looking for something in particular, click here to go back to the homepage to use our search functionality.