Producers Handbook

The Internet

Key Points

  • Content published on the internet is subject to the same laws as the broadcast or printed media
  • Content published on Channel 4's online services should be complied to broadcast standards


The Internet as a research tool

The internet is a very valuable research tool and contains an enormous amount of information. However, just because facts and information appear on the internet does not mean that they are true or accurate. Some sites will be more reliable than others, for example the sites of major broadcasters or reputable national newspapers are, on the whole, likely to be more reliable and accurate than obscure fanzine sites. Wherever the internet is being used as a research tool, common sense is required. Any information gleaned from it must be properly evaluated and, where appropriate, corroborated before being included within programmes.


Copyright and the Internet

There is a common misconception that if copyright works (including literary works, pictures, videos, photographs and works of art) are on the internet, they are somehow in the "public domain" and that normal copyright laws do not apply. This is incorrect. Material appearing on the internet is still protected by copyright. Accordingly, if programme-makers wish to include material within programmes to be broadcast on Channel 4, these works either need to be cleared (licensed) or advice obtained from a programme lawyer on whether any statutory defence to copyright infringement applies, for example fair dealing, see 'Copyright & Fair Dealing'.


Publishing/Broadcasting on the Internet

Channel 4 has webpages which contain information about the Channel's activities generally and about specific programmes. Some programmes can also be watched or downloaded online.

Whilst Ofcom does not directly regulate internet content, Channel 4's Online Editorial and Compliance Protocol, is designed to ensure that online content is suitable for users. Channel 4 places warnings in front of all adult content to be broadcast over the internet to ensure that users are fully aware of the nature of the content, which may be unsuitable for children or cause harm and offence.

In terms of the law, there is little difference between publishing/broadcasting on television and on the internet. The laws of copyright, defamation, confidence, privacy and relevant criminal laws all apply and in fact, in some areas, there is a need to be even more careful when publishing and broadcasting on the internet, because sites on the internet can be accessed in countries all over the world (unless content is geo-blocked to a particular territory).


User-Generated Content and Social Networking Services.

User-generated content ("UGC") and social networking services have become an increasingly important and prevalent part of website publishing. As the publisher of content appearing on its website, or on pages it produces and manages on social media platforms, Channel 4 is responsible for such material. The risks associated with its publication are assessed on an individual project basis, and the appropriate level of 'moderation', whether pre, post or simply reactive moderation, must be agreed with the channel's programme lawyers. 


Video on Demand ("VOD")

Many of Channel 4's programmes are available in on demand services on digital TV services and online. These services are subject to the same legal restraints that apply to broadcast programmes and material published on the websites operated by Channel 4.

Video on demand services are subject to the Rules and Guidance enforced by the regulatory body, Ofcom.

In particular, it ensures that appropriate information is provided to prospective users of services and that there are appropriate safeguards in place for the protection of under 18s.


Mobile Content

Channel 4 publishes content on various mobile platforms including through iOS and Android apps. Channel 4's mobile content is edited to ensure compliance with the Online Editorial and Compliance Protocol and Code of Practice of the British Board of Film Classification (“BBFC”).

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