Producers Handbook

Editorial Independence & Commercial References

Key Points

  • Programme content and advertising must be kept clearly separate.

  • Products and services must not be promoted within programmes (subject to a few specific exceptions). Programme related material is excluded from this rule, although generally where it is paid for material e.g. books or videos, the Ofcom expectation is that it is to be promoted immediately after and outside the body of the programme it is directly derived from.
  • The broadcaster must retain complete editorial control over programme content.
  • Programmes must not give undue prominence to commercial products and services. Product placement is permissible but there are restrictions, and detailed advice should be sought from the programme lawyer.
  • Programme-related material e.g. factsheets, websites, helplines, premium rate services, etc. may be promoted within programmes or around the programmes to which they relate as long as it is editorially justified to do so and the broadcaster retains responsibility for the material.
  • Premium rate services should not be included in programmes unless their inclusion is editorially justified and they fall within the definition of programme-related material.
  • All competitions within programmes (including premium rate telephone, text, web and red button interaction), whether free to enter or not, should be referred in advance to the programme lawyer for advice. Consideration should also be given to the provisions of the Gambling Act 2005.
  • Generally advertisements must be clearly separated from programmes. However, all types of programming may contain advertisements or clips from advertisements, if editorially justified. Seek advice from the programme lawyer.
  • Charitable appeals within programmes are permissible. However, there are specific rules that broadcasters and programme-makers must follow.
  • Television broadcasters are now allowed to broadcast appeals for donations to make programmes or fund their service. However, this must never be done without Channel 4’s consent, having taken advice from the programme lawyer.
  • There are complex rules in relation to broadcasting financial promotions. Seek advice from the programme lawyer.
  • News and current affairs programming may not be sponsored, advertiser funded or contain product placement.
  • Generally, programmes cannot be sponsored by organisations that are prohibited from advertising on television, e.g. the tobacco industry.
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