Policy on Online Postings including Twitter
- This policy applies to all independent production companies working on any Channel 4 programme and any talent appearing on a Channel 4 programme who are making online postings on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social networks. It also applies to all staff working on the production. Adherence to this policy should be considered part of all relevant contractual agreements for individual programmes and developments, as well as being referenced in contracts with staff and talent.
- All information relating to the Channel's output is confidential, unless agreed in advance with the commissioning editor of the programme.
- Only staff specifically permitted and agreed with the commissioning editor, should make comments on Twitter or other sites about specific information related to a programme.
- Once permission to post online has been granted to named individuals, the tenor and the subject matter of any postings should be consistent with that of the programme they are working on. Any significant departure should be raised with the commissioning editor at Channel 4.
- All postings should also comply with the rules and principles set out in the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008). In particular should anyone to whom this policy applies promote a product or service in exchange for free or discounted gifts or cash or any other benefit in kind they must ensure that they are fully transparent about the nature of the relationship with the product or service. In the case of Twitter they must use "#ad" or "#spon" in the tweet itself to make it clear that there has been a reciprocal arrangement in place and therefore the tweet is effectively a marketing communication. In the case of other social media platforms, the same issue of transparency is relevant and suitable words should be used to make the reciprocal arrangement clear to readers. If in doubt please ensure that you err on the side of caution and are transparent.
Please bear in mind the following principles:
- If you are thinking of setting up a dedicated social media account for a programme, you must discuss this with Channel 4 first. Proposals must be sent to Channel 4 via SocialMedia@Channel4.co.uk; you will be contacted back within 2 weeks. If you are planning to use social media solely for casting or researching your programme, please discuss this with your commissioning contact instead; and if it goes ahead, please send the link to SocialMedia@channel4.co.uk.
There are broadly two types of online posting, both of which are subject to this policy:
- Postings on designated Channel 4 websites / accounts - In such cases the rule is that postings are subject to Channel 4's normal editorial standards and controls, such as standards of due impartiality, editorial independence and accuracy.
- Postings on personal websites / accounts - Where the posting is to a personal page or account and where you are individually responsible for the content and not legally subject to the editorial control of Channel 4, but you must abide by the policy above.
- Colleagues should be able to communicate openly at work without fearing that their actions or comments will be later disclosed on the internet. For example, unless appropriate consents have been obtained, avoid posting details of private conversations in the workplace or meetings about the programme.
- Due impartiality on political issues is a fundamental standard and applies to all factual programming. This means for example, that news and current affairs journalists working on this output do not as a rule agree or disagree with a political party or politician, or take a fixed stance on politically contentious issues. Presenters and reporters generally should be particularly careful about comments on political issues and politicians.
- On Channel 4 designated sites, due impartiality on political issues must be applied.
- On personal sites, where you identify yourself as working for Channel 4 output, you should avoid making statements that could be perceived as taking a position on a political issue of the day and it may be appropriate to place a disclaimer underlining that your comments are personal opinion. If your profile is such that you are likely to be identified as working for Channel 4 or any of its services, seek guidance if you are considering posting statements on matters of political or public controversy.
Ethical and professional conduct
- Behaviour that is inappropriate at work is usually not appropriate on the internet. On Channel 4 designated sites and sites where you identify yourself as a person working on C4 output, avoid abusive or aggressive behaviour and respond to others in a professional manner.
- Information gained whilst working for Channel factual output is confidential and should not be made public unless agreed with the commissioning editor. This includes matters such as details of confidential editorial operations, scheduling forthcoming special projects or programmes not yet announced; details of internal company issues, internal memos or commercially sensitive information.
- Channel 4 is only legally responsible for content on designated websites or accounts. In such cases, Channel 4 retains final editorial control.
- Comments made on personal sites or accounts are your own legal responsibility. Where on a personal site you are referring to Channel 4 matters, the normal Channel 4 editorial standards and controls should apply. You should be aware that the laws of libel are in principle the same online as any other form of publication or broadcast. Care should be taken when linking to sites or republishing content that contain defamatory statements.
- Care should also be taken in the light of any right to replies which may be in the process of being sent and answered.
- You should consult with your designated lawyer for clarification on any issue relating to the timing of agreed online postings.
- You should also avoid publishing material which allied to material already available online may identify someone. This is called ‘jigsaw identification’ and can lead to libel proceedings.
- If there is a risk that the opinions published could be viewed as those of Channel 4, it is usually appropriate to post a disclaimer e.g. "These comments are my personal views and opinions, not the views or opinions of Channel 4".
- Where a posting raises legal or compliance issues, speak to your commissioning editor and lawyer.
- If you receive a legal complaint or a request to take material down, or a press enquiry, following any online posting you must immediately refer it to your commissioning editor and lawyer.