Procedural Rules

This document outlines the procedures for the Online Independent Complaints Reviewer (‘the Reviewer’) when undertaking a review of a fairness and/or privacy complaint in relation to editorial content published on all online platforms where Channel 4 retains editorial control (‘the Content’), which raises issues under the Channel 4 Online Complaints Code (‘the Code’).

These procedures only apply to the review of fairness and/or privacy decisions by Channel 4 that have not been upheld or only upheld in part (‘the Decision’).

The Reviewers Terms of Reference 

1.1 The Reviewer shall only review a Decision made in relation to a complaint about Content, which raises issues relating to a potential breach of the Code.

1.2 The Reviewer will not review a Decision made in relation to complaints about:

  • programme content broadcast on Channel 4, E4, More4, 4Seven, Film4, 4Music or any of the +1 or HD channels (‘the Channel 4 Service’) where a complaint could be entertained under Ofcom’s Procedures for the consideration and adjudication of Fairness & Privacy complaints;
  • on-demand ‘catch-up’ content which has recently been shown on the Channel 4 Service where a complaint made under Ofcom’s Procedures for investigating breaches of rules for on-demand programme services, could be entertained by Ofcom under its Procedures for the consideration and adjudication of Fairness & Privacy complaints;
  • fairness and/or privacy complaints where the complainant is not the person affected (as defined in sections 1.10 - 1.12 below); and
  • the remedial action taken or not taken in relation to the Decision.

Procedures 

Making a request for a review: who may apply 

1.3 Complainants should first follow Channel 4’s own complaints procedure before seeking a review under this procedure. Complaints can be directed to the production company in the first instance for consideration. Where a complainant does not accept the decision of the production company they can then raise their complaint directly with Channel 4. In some case complainants may prefer to complain directly to Channel 4 in the first instance.

1.4 If a fairness and/or privacy complaint is not upheld or only upheld in part, the complainant can then seek a review of that decision by the Reviewer under these procedures provided the grounds for seeking an independent review as set out below have been met (see paragraph 1.17 below).

1.5 Where a review is sought of a fairness and/or privacy complaint, it may be made by an individual or by a body of persons (whether incorporated or not). However, the Reviewer can only entertain such a complaint if it is made by “the person affected” or by a person authorised by him/her to make the complaint on their behalf (see paragraphs 1.10-1.12 below).

Form of request & information to be provided 

1.8 A request for a review must be submitted to the Reviewer in writing. 

1.9 All requests for a review should include details of: 

  • the online content complained about; 
  • the original complaint and the basis upon which it is alleged that the Code has been breached; 
  • the Decision of which a review is sought; 
  • the grounds upon which a review is sought (See paragraph 1.17 below); 
  • the standing of the complainant, (i.e. whether the complainant is “the person affected” or authorised by “the person affected” to make the complaint for them. See paragraphs 1.10 -1.12 below); 
  • the complainant’s full contact details (including email address where appropriate); and
  • any supporting material/evidence, which the complainant considers relevant to the substance of the complaint and/or their standing to make it.

The Person Affected and Direct Interest

1.10 Fairness and/or privacy complaints are complaints about unjust or unfair treatment in the Content, or about unwarranted infringements of privacy in the publication of the Content.

1.11 These complaints may be made by an individual or by a body of persons (whether incorporated or not). However, the Reviewer shall not entertain such a complaint unless it is made by “the person affected” or by a person authorised by “the person affected” to make the complaint for him/her.

“The Person Affected” in relation to a fairness complaint means:

  • A participant in the Content in question who was the subject of that treatment (“Participant” means a person who featured in the Content); or 
  • A person who, whether such a participant or not, had a direct interest in the subject matter of that treatment. 

1.12 In relation to a privacy complaint, “the person affected” means a person whose privacy was allegedly infringed in the publication of that Content.

Time limits on making a request 

1.13 The Reviewer may refuse to entertain a request for a review if the request is not submitted within 20 working days after the date of the Decision. Ordinarily, the Reviewer will not accept a request, which is submitted after this deadline.

1.14 Where a request is submitted later than 20 working days after the date of the Decision, complainants should explain why the request was not submitted earlier. The Reviewer will then weigh up all relevant factors (including the complainant’s explanation for the delay in submitting the request) and decide whether or not it is appropriate for him/her to consider the request despite the delay in its submission.

Assessing whether to entertain a request for a review 

1.15 On receiving a request the Reviewer will forward a copy to Channel 4 and ask it to provide a copy of the Content and a copy of the Decision within ten working days. If the Reviewer requires any further information from Channel 4 at this stage he/she will write to Channel 4 requesting such information be provided within ten working days.

1.16 If the Reviewer requires further information from the complainant at this stage (for example, about their standing to make a complaint on their own or some other person’s behalf, or about the substance of their complaint), he/she will write to the complainant requesting such information be provided within ten working days.

Grounds of review

1.17 The Reviewer will then decide whether or not to entertain the request on the basis of whether one or more of the following grounds of review have been met:

  • there is a substantial flaw in the Decision; and/or 
  • the Decision fails to give sufficient weight to material matters relevant to the Decision, and by reason of which the Decision is unsafe.

Grounds upon which the Reviewer can decline to entertain a request 

1.18 The Reviewer will not entertain a request where it appears that:

  • the matter complained of does not raise any issue of fairness and/or privacy under the Code; or
  • the matter is trivial, misconceived, frivolous or vexatious; or • the matter complained of is the subject of proceedings in a court of law; or
  • the matter complained of is a matter in respect of which the complainant or the person affected has a remedy by way of proceedings in a court of law in the UK, and that is the more appropriate forum and in the particular circumstances it is not appropriate for the Reviewer to consider a complaint about it; or
  • for any other reason it is inappropriate for the Reviewer to entertain or proceed with consideration of the request.

(If any of the above matters become apparent to the Reviewer in the course of a review he/she may cease to proceed with consideration of the review). 

1.19 The complainant and Channel 4 will be provided with a copy of the Reviewer’s Entertainment Decision indicating whether (and to what extent) the Reviewer will be proceeding with consideration of the request or alternatively why the Reviewer is not entertaining the request.

1.20 The Reviewer’s decision is final.

Entertained Reviews: Representations 

1.21 If a request is entertained by the Reviewer, then at the same time that it provides the Entertainment Decision to Channel 4, the Reviewer will also ask Channel 4 to provide a statement in response to the complaint within 20 working days. 

1.22 On receipt of Channel 4’s statement/representations, the Reviewer will provide a copy of it to the complainant. 

1.23 If the Reviewer considers that it is necessary to obtain further information from either party to ensure that he/she can fairly and properly review the complaint (for example, if there is a significant dispute of fact between the complainant and Channel 4), the Reviewer may seek such further information and impose time limits as are appropriate for such further information to be provided. 

1.24 The Reviewer aims to complete the consideration and adjudication of fairness and/or privacy review within 30 working days of the review being entertained.

The Reviewer’s Recommendation

1.25 The Reviewer will then prepare his/her final recommendation. The Reviewer’s recommendation will contain:

  • a summary of the entertained request (or the particular parts of the request which have been entertained) as set out in the relevant Entertainment Decision; 
  • a summary of the material parts of the Content to which the review relates;
  • the particular provisions of the Code, which the Reviewer considers, are relevant and applicable to the entertained complaint;
  • a summary of Channel 4’s statement of representations in response;
  • the Reviewer’s assessment of whether there is a substantial flaw in the Decision and/or the Decision fails to give sufficient weight to material matters relevant to the Decision, and by reason of which the Decision is unsafe;

1.26 The Reviewer’s recommendation will be provided to the parties at the same time.

1.27 The Reviewers’ decision is final.

Channel 4 reconsideration 

1.28 Channel 4 will then review the Reviewer’s recommendations and write to the complainant within 10 working days from the date of the Reviewer’s recommendation, to confirm whether the complaint will be reconsidered by Channel 4 giving a time frame for that or notifying the complainant of the reasons why Channel 4 does not accept the Reviewer’s recommendation.

1.29 Channel 4’s decision is final in this regard.

Channel 4 Television Corporation

20th July 2016