Channel 4 seeks to ensure Online's compliance with the law and relevant regulation, as well as generally minimising the risk of causing harm and offence, through the application of the rules and procedures below.
Editorial responsibility is central to effective editorial, compliance and legal management. This means that if you are involved in commissioning, creating and/or publishing content on C4 online platforms, including external staff engaged by C4, the ultimate responsibility for the editorial decisions rests with you.
Crucially this includes making sure that all content you are responsible for has been subject to the appropriate level of editorial, compliance and legal scrutiny at appropriate stages. In other words, you should satisfy yourself that the decisions that you are taking will not give rise to undue risk and if you are unsure, you must refer the matter up (see 'Editorial Referral-Up Process' below) or seek advice from the legal & compliance department.
Whilst everyone working on Online content must take editorial responsibility for the decisions they make, the person who commissioned the content at Channel 4 takes primary responsibility, subject to the commissioning editor of a television programme having ultimate editorial ownership and responsibility for how their programme is represented online and on non-linear digital platforms.
Online staff must liaise with all relevant individuals and departments e.g. programme commissioning, programme lawyers, press, marketing and other relevant colleagues during the planning and production of online material, to identify any potential risks.
Post launch, Online staff are responsible for continuing to liaise with those individuals or departments to monitor user comments and internet discussions, following the referral up process set out below as and when necessary.
In practical terms, those involved in the commissioning, making and/or publishing of content online must:
- Be fully conversant with all material that is being produced for publication on Channel 4's own sites, whether produced internally or by third party suppliers;
- Ensure any contentious material (or material related to a contentious programme) is checked before it goes 'live';
- Ensure any underlying rights (e.g. copyright) in the material have been cleared as necessary;
- Identify potential issues and if necessary seek advice before and after publication in a timely manner on any matters giving rise to legal issues or requiring advice from the legal & compliance department (for example, libel, copyright, contempt of court and privacy);
- Immediately refer up any queries or concerns in relation to existing published material;
- Review existing published material periodically in order to ensure that the passage of time has not rendered it legally problematic or in breach of this Protocol;
- Respond immediately to any takedown requests;
- Manage and supervise effectively the relationship with and outputs of third party suppliers; and
- Ensure that external third party suppliers of content are made contractually responsible for delivering content which is compliant both with the law and relevant regulation;
Editorial Referral-Up Process
The editorial 'referral-up' procedure exists to ensure that difficult or fine-cut decisions on editorial matters are properly considered by the most appropriately experienced and senior editorial executives within the Channel, up to the Director of Programmes and ultimately the Chief Executive as the editor-in-chief. The key principle is, "if in doubt refer". This editorial referral–up process is mirrored by a similar process in which lawyers from the legal & compliance department refer up to the Director of Commercial Affairs and ultimately the Chief Executive as the editor-in-chief on legal and compliance issues.
e.g. system failure resulting in data loss; security issues; and coding failures.
In the case of technology issues, initial reference –up is to the Chief Technology Officer or the Chief Information Officer. The Chief Technology Officer or the Chief Information Officer may then take the decision to refer up further to the Director of Commercial Affairs.
On more contentious or sensitive technology issues, the Director of Commercial Affairs 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.
The Online reference-up process is set out in more detail at the end of this section - see Appendix 2.
A summary of the whole editorial reference-up process is set out at the end of the internal procedures for reference-up and compliance.
Online Consumer Protection
In addition to proper editorial and legal scrutiny of material to be published, Channel 4 offers safeguards across its Online platforms and services enabling parents/adults to restrict access to post-watershed content by minors (known as 'Content Access Control').
There are three main elements to effective Content Access Control:
- Transmission information to help users identify what is pre and post-watershed programming (when available)
- Guidance information before a user views a specific piece of content
- The combination of PIN protection and self-declaration of an age group.
Outlined in Appendix 1 are specific technologies and approaches that are implemented to enable effective Content Access Controls to be offered to our users, across a range of different online activities.
The following additional guidelines should also read in conjunction with this protocol, as appropriate to the production.
- Channel 4 Online Escalation Process – Please ensure that you refer up any concerns or issues to the relevant line manager. If urgent matters need to be discussed, the online contact details are circulated in the weekly Duty Rota by the Facilities Management Helpdesk.
- Competition Guidelines – These guidelines require competition organisers to notify the Audience Interaction Team of any competitions they intend to run. It is the responsibility of the commissioner or producer running the competition to ensure their competitions are compliant with the guidelines. The Audience Interaction Team can assist and are able to sign off copy, answer queries and will oversee the selection of competition winners.
- C4 Moderation Guidelines – this provides further guidance on the moderation of content e.g. user generated content (UGC). All staff involved in activities involving UGC must read and comply with the C4 Moderation Guidelines. Please contact the Community Manager and/or programme lawyer for a copy.
Viewer enquiries respond to the vast majority of calls, emails and letters of complaint about on-demand and other online content but commissioning editors bear primary responsibility for answering such complaints especially where they raise significant or sensitive issues. Replies should be reasonably prompt, duly courteous and appropriate to the issues raised.
If a complaint raises legal or compliance issues they must be discussed with a programme lawyer who will advise on how the reply is drafted and it may need to referred-up as appropriate.
Where a complaint is dissatisfied with a response from Channel 4 in relation to online content which raise issues of fairness and/or privacy they can appeal to the Online Independent Complaints Reviewer and seek a review of the complaint. If the reviewer entertains the review, producers are expected to co-operate with the commissioning and legal & Compliance teams in preparing written submissions to reviewer.