Complaints Code

Channel 4’s Online Complaints Code (‘the Code’) applies where a complainant seeks a review from the online independent complaints reviewer of a fairness and/or privacy decision relating to editorial content published on any online platform where Channel 4 retains editorial control. 

The Code

1. Fairness

Rule: To avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in the publication of editorial content online.

Practices to be followed

1.1 Information or images that are materially misleading or distorted should not be published.

1.2 A materially misleading statement or distortion should be corrected.

1.3 If an allegation of wrongdoing or incompetence or other significant allegation is being made, those concerned should normally be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond. The substance of their response should be fairly represented in the online content but it is not normally necessary, in the interests of fairness, to reproduce their response in its entirety.

1.4 Where an individual is invited to make a contribution (except when the subject matter is trivial or their participation minor) they should normally, at an appropriate stage be told the subject matter and purpose of the online content, and the nature of the contribution that is being asked of them in order that their consent to participate is informed.

1.5 Information, audio, pictures or an agreement to contribute should not normally be obtained or sought through misrepresentation or deception. 

1.6 It may however be warranted to use material obtained through misrepresentation or deception without consent if it is in the public interest and cannot reasonably be obtained by other means.

2. Privacy

Rule: To avoid an unwarranted infringement of privacy in the publication of editorial content online.

Practices to be followed

2.1 Any infringement of privacy must be warranted in the absence of the individual’s informed consent.

2.2 An infringement of privacy is warranted if the public interest outweighs the right to privacy. 

2.3 The public interest includes, but is not confined to:

  • detecting or exposing crime, or the threat of crime, or serious impropriety;
  • protecting public health or safety;
  • protecting the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation;
  • disclosing a person or organisation’s failure or likely failure to comply with any obligation to which they are subject;
  • disclosing a miscarriage of justice;
  • raising or contributing to a matter of public debate, including serious cases of impropriety, unethical conduct or incompetence concerning the public; and
  • disclosing concealment, or likely concealment, of any of the above.

2.4 Whether an individual has a legitimate expectation of privacy will vary according to the place and nature of the information or activity in question, the extent to which it is in the public domain (if at all) and whether the individual concerned is already in the public eye. There may be circumstances where people can reasonably expect privacy even in a public place. Some activities and conditions may be of such a private nature that photographing or recording, even in a public place, could involve an infringement of privacy. 

2.5 Particular care is needed in relation to the privacy of people under 16. They do not lose their rights to privacy because, for example, of the fame or notoriety of their parents or because of events in their schools.

2.6 Where content features an individual under 16 or a vulnerable person in a way that could infringe their privacy, informed consent must be obtained from:

  • a parent, guardian or other person of 18 or over in loco parentis; and
  • wherever possible, the individual concerned;
  • unless the subject matter is trivial or uncontroversial and the participation is minor, or it is warranted to proceed without informed consent.

2.7 Surreptitious filming or recording should only be used where it is warranted. Normally, it will only be warranted if:

  • there is prima facie evidence of a story in the public interest; and
  • there are reasonable grounds to suspect that further material evidence could be obtained; and
  • it is necessary to the credibility and authenticity of the story.

Channel 4 Television Corporation
August 2023