Editorial Reference-up Procedure

Editorial Reference-up Procedure

The editorial 'reference- up' procedure is at the heart of creative risk-taking and compliance and it exists to ensure that difficult or fine-cut decisions on editorial and compliance issues are properly considered by the most appropriately experienced and senior editorial executives and programme lawyers within the Channel and, in the unlikely event of any disagreement concerning the programme lawyer's advice, that this is discussed at a senior level.

The key principle is: if in doubt, refer.

 

Programmes

In the case of programmes, initial reference-up is made by the commissioning editor or deputy to their Editorial Head, and then together to the Controller of Legal and Compliance or her deputy. The Editorial Head and/or Controller of Legal and Compliance may then take the decision to refer up further to the Director of Programmes.

On more contentious or sensitive programme issues, the Director of Programmes will also inform the Chief Executive for his final decision as Editor-in-Chief. The Chief Executive will decide whether the circumstances are so exceptional that it is necessary to inform the Channel 4 Board.

 

Film4

In the case of Film4 funded productions, initial reference-up is by the commissioning executive together with the Controller of Legal and Compliance to the Director of Film 4.

On more contentious or sensitive film issues, the Director of Film 4 will also inform the Chief Executive for her final decision as Editor-in-Chief. The Chief Executive will decide whether the circumstances are so exceptional that it is necessary to inform the Channel 4 Board.

 

Online

For information on editorial responsibility and editorial reference-up see our Social Media Guidelines

 

Marketing

In the case of on- or off-air marketing, initial reference-up is by the marketing or 4Creative producer to the Head of Marketing and/or Heads of 4Creative together to the Controller of Legal and Compliance or to their deputy. The Head of Marketing and/or the Heads of 4Creative together with the Controller of Legal and Compliance may then take the decision to refer up further to the Chief Marketing Officer.

On more contentious or sensitive marketing issues, the Chief Marketing Officer will also inform the Chief Executive for her final decision as Editor-in-Chief. The Chief Executive will decide whether the circumstances are so exceptional that it is necessary to inform the Channel 4 Board.

 

Legal & Compliance

In addition to the above editorial reference up procedures, there is a parallel legal and compliance procedure for programmes, Film4, online and marketing. The Controller of Legal and Compliance or their deputy, reports directly to the Director of Commercial Affairs on all significant legal or compliance risks concerning programmes, Film4, online and marketing. The Director of Commercial Affairs will also inform the Chief Executive where such risks are likely to give rise to significant regulatory or legal action. The Controller of Legal and Compliance also has a dotted line reporting to the Chief Executive and the Chairman on highly contentious and sensitive content issues which raise significant legal and or regulatory action. See 'Issues requiring reference-up'.

 

Difficult and fine-cut compliance decisions

After advice from the Legal & Compliance department, difficult and fine-cut compliance decisions effecting programmes, online or marketing, should be referred to the Director of Programmes (or Chief Marketing Officer in the case of marketing or the Director of Film4 in the case of Film4) and ultimately to the Chief Executive. Such matters might concern a significant viewer trust or programme authenticity issue; the inclusion of potentially harmful or offensive material, e.g. very strong language, explicit sexual content or graphic violence; or may relate to a difficult ethical, fairness or privacy issue. At the same time the programme lawyer will also refer the matter up to the Controller of Legal and Compliance or her deputy. The Controller of Legal and Compliance will refer-up to the Director of Commercial Affairs and this is ultimately referred to the Chief Executive.