Policy: Fairness to Contributors

1. Introduction

Manoto is committed to fairness in everything it does. This commitment extends to our audiences, our employees, our content creators, and partners, but also to our contributors and participants. Wenot only see this as our duty but understand that people are the most important part of our content. Our content should always therefore be based on respect, openness, and straightforwardness.

For more information on the legal obligations we are under to be fair to our contributors, please read this policy alongside section 7 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code (the “Code”), which deals with fairness. It is intended to cover and build upon the “practices to be followed” (7.2 to 7.14 of the Code). Following these practices will notnecessarily avoid a breach of the Code but are intended to reduce the risk of harm or unfairness, and failure to follow them will likely constitute a breach if such failure leads to any unfairness to an individual or organisation.

This policy should also be read alongside our Privacy Policy for a more complete picture of our approach to treating people with fairness and integrity.

The most important theme of this policy is informed consent and most of the guidance relates to establishing this, whether by open, honest, straightforward dealing with our contributors (and potential contributors), sources, and audiences1.

There are cases where fully informed consent is not proportionate. These are signposted throughout this policy.

The diversity of content created and broadcast by Manoto is constantly evolving and so this policy is, where possible, principle andoutcome based, rather than an exhaustive set of rules to follow. Care should be taken in each individual case to act according to this policy, whilst understanding that not every risk can be mentioned here.

*Please note that ‘informed consent’ should be understood in the context of this policy and not in the context of data protection law, where it has a specific legal meaning.

2. Referral and escalation process

The following rules and processes are a vital part of delivering on our promises of fairness to contributors as well as compliance with our legal obligations.

If you have any doubt about these rules and processes then please refer in the first instance to the most senior executive working on the relevant programme, who in turn should refer to Manoto’s Managing Director if uncertainty about the correct approach still subsists.

3. Detailed Guidance

 

3.1 Contributors and Informed Consent

We believe that members of the public should be able to follow their own ambitions by taking part in our programmes if they want to. However, we need to be conscious that many of our programmes are topical and create wide media interest, and in particular can create intense social media interest. This, in turn, can increase the pressures on those who enter the public eye through appearing in them.

We should treat our contributors with honesty and respect. Our commitment to fairness is best achieved by ensuring that people provide ‘informed consent’ before they participate. ‘Informed consent’ means that contributors should be in possession of the knowledge that is necessary for a reasoned decision to take part.

Unless the subject matter is trivial or where the participation is in the form of a ‘vox pop’, the following information should normally be given to contributors:

  • the nature of the content (what is it about and what is it for?);

  • why they are being asked to contribute to Manoto content (include when and where it will be broadcast if this is known);

  • whether their contribution will be live or recorded and/or edited. If recorded:

    • we should make it clear that there is no guarantee that it will be used; and

    • whether or not they will have a chance to review and/or approve it before it is broadcast;

  • the areas of questioning and, where relevant, the nature of other likely contributions;

  • that their contribution may be used by other Manoto outlets including re-use, archiving online, and on social media; and

  • that it may also be available indefinitely and globally.

We should be very careful to not make any commitments to a contributor that we cannot keep.

There are some circumstances where it may not be possible or appropriate to ask for consent, including:

Offences & Antisocial Behaviour - Where someone is recorded committing an offence/anti-social behaviour (or admitting to the same), they have a reduced legitimate expectation of privacy, and that expectation will likely be outweighed by the public interest.

Public Figures - Contributors may be public figures or private individuals and the material including them may include photographs, video, and correspondence. We should always be fair and accurate in our portrayal of these people and respect their legitimate expectations of privacy.

However, again, such a decision not to ask for consent should be taken by the most senior executive working on the relevant programme.

Having obtained informed consent, we should where possible make contributors aware of significant changes to a programme or other content as it develops if such changes might reasonably be considered to have changed the basis for their informed consent. For example, where the title of the programme changes in such a way that might affect audience perception, where the other contributors change, where the broadcast date is significantly changed, etc.). Anything that materially alters the context in which the contribution will appear should prompt a thorough consideration of whether new consent is required.

Sometimes, in the public interest, it may be appropriate to withhold certain information, but that should be discussed with the programme’s senior producer or editor beforehand.

 

3.2 Giving and withdrawing consent

How we obtain consent from our participants depends upon the nature and circumstances of their contribution. If the contribution is significant in nature, we should normally ask the contributor to sign a consent form (or a contract) which formalises their relationship with us and confirms their understanding as set out in 3.1.

Where it is proposed that a consent form or contract is not needed, wherever possible, consent should still be obtained in writing – whether by an email exchange, or a recording of the contributor confirming their understanding and consent. Where it is not possible to record this in writing or recording, a contemporaneous note of the conversation in which consent is given is good practice.

Where someone is interviewed at short notice, such as for a news or reality programme, they will most likely give their consent by way of simply agreeing to be recorded for television (or to contribute in some way online). Informed consent is an ongoing process. If we are working with someone on a longer-term project, and they have not signed a contract, their consent should be sought each time a contribution is requested.

We should not rely on third parties to give consent on behalf of others except where the circumstances make it appropriate or necessary. It may be appropriate to make the initial approach to a contributor via a third-party where that person is vulnerable, bereaved, or in otherwise sensitive circumstances.

Where a contributor is under 16, consent should be sought from a parent or guardian where possible. Additionally:

  • Young people and vulnerable adults may not always be in a position to give informed assent or consent. Vulnerable people include those with learning difficulties or forms of dementia, the bereaved, and people who are sick or terminally ill. In such cases, someone over 18 with primary responsibility for their care should normally give consent on their behalf, unless it is editorially justified to proceed without it.

  • In particular, we should not ask someone who is unable to give their own consent for views on matters likely to be beyond their capacity to answer properly.

It isn’t generally possible for contributors to television shows to withdraw their consent, since it is often not possible to remove their contributions. However, we should always consider a request to withdraw a contribution and see what we can do to treat the contributor fairly. Circumstances where we should seek to accommodate the withdrawal may include where the contributor’s personal circumstances have changed significantly, or the intended use of the contribution has changed in a way which may affect the contributor.

Meaning of “vulnerable person” should be interpreted as in Ofcom Rule 8.22: “This varies, but may include those with learning difficulties, those with mental health problems, the bereaved, people with brain damage or forms of dementia, people who have been traumatised or who are sick or terminally ill.”

 

3.3 Safety and Welfare of contributors

We owe due care to our contributors and potential contributors, as well as to our sources who may be caused harm or distress as a result of their contribution to our output, and should never put the health and safety of contributors, sources, or any other participants at any significant risk. However, the duty of care may vary for publicly accountable figures who contribute to our output, or when we are reporting events in the public domain, such as proceedings in court.

Before asking a potential contributor to become involved in a project, we should carefully consider whether their anticipated contribution will expose them to any significant risk and, if this is at all likely, conduct a risk assessment using the framework in the attached Annex. Depending on the outcome of the risk assessment, it may be appropriate to conduct a physical fitness or psychological test with consent from the contributor following full disclosure of the risks involved.

Even where the actions of the contributor are beyond our control, we should never encourage contributors to put themselves at risk when we are gathering material.

In considering the risks to international contributors or potential contributors, care should be given to any potential consequences of their participation within their own countries. This should be factored into any risk assessment regarding the welfare of our contributors.

We must always consider whether any of the following apply to the contributor or programme when assessing the risk of harm to a contributor:

  • They are a vulnerable person

  • They are unused to being in the public eye

  • Their contribution involves being filmed in an artificial / constructed environment

  • The programme is likely to attract a high level of press, media, or social media interest / controversy

  • Key editorial elements of the programme include potential confrontation, conflict, or emotionally challenging situations

  • The programme requires or expects the discussion of sensitive, life-changing or private aspects of a contributor’s life

  • They may be subject to arrest, reprisals or other adverse treatment by the authorities or others in their own country.

 

3.4 Fair Editing

In connection with our commitment to informed consent, the final content should always be a fair representation of the contributor’s contribution. This means that what they say, do and the nature of their contribution should be fairly portrayed.

 

3.5 Anonymity

There may be times when contributors can only contribute on an anonymous basis. Whilst this should be avoided where possible, there may be times where their contribution is in the public interest and anonymity is the only way of obtaining their contribution. We should only offer anonymity in the limited circumstances where there is an editorial justification for doing so.

The decision to offer anonymity must always be referred to the most senior executive working on the relevant programme.

Further risk mitigating steps in offering anonymity:

  • Always take steps to ascertain who the contributor wishes to remain anonymous from and why. This should also feed into the wider risk assessment undertaken under section 3.3.

  • Always agree with the extent of the anonymity explicitly with the contributor, having fully understood why they wish to be anonymous in advance.

  • Always ensure that we are in a position to offer the anonymity, keeping in mind that a court order or other regulatory power could force us to hand over documentation or footage which has not been broadcast. If complete anonymity is appropriate, the contributor should not be identified in any paperwork, documentation, or audio- visual content. Further, remember that our content may be reproduced by third parties in unknown territories without our knowledge and so we should not guarantee that content will not be seen in a specific country or area.

  • Consider the factors that make someone identifiable, which may include more than just their face.

  • Images should be blurred rather than pixelated or technically distorted, since the latter techniques are easier to reverse.

  • Consider the fact that ‘jigsaw identification’ (identification by piecing together disparate pieces of information) may be possible including using information which is in the public domain. When agreeing the scope of the anonymity with the contributor, be sure to agree with them the factors which may be relevant here, such as:

    • The way they are described

    • The area in which they live

Some people have a legal right to anonymity. This includes (with victims extending to include alleged victims):

  • The victims of certain offences including offences with a sexual element, who have a right not to be identified as victims. This legal right exists regardless of whether law enforcement has been involved

  • Victims of female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and human trafficking have automatic anonymity in relation to their victimhood. Remember that in many of such cases the anonymity exists to protect the individual from identification by their own family, and so particular care must be taken to avoid jigsaw identification

  • Teachers accused of a criminal offence against a pupil, except where the teacher is charged with the criminal offence are protected from identification, although they can waive this anonymity in writing.

In case of any doubt about whether we can, should, or must offer anonymity, legal advice should be sought prior to accepting the contribution.

 

3.6 Right to Preview, and Editorial Independence

It is generally not practical or necessary to allow contributors to preview the content to which they have contributed. Where there are reasons to offer a preview, this should be agreed with the contributor in writing and it should be made clear whether or not the contributor has the right to request any reasonable changes or withdraw their contribution.

In general, the only changes we should agree to relate to the correction of agreed factual inaccuracies or to address reasonable concerns about the welfare of children. It is important that we retain editorial control, and this should be kept in mind when agreeing to a contributor’s conditions for contributing. Most importantly, we should never agree to concessions which do not allow us to tell a fair and accurate story.

 

3.7 Right of Reply

If anything in our content alleges an offence or wrongdoing by any individual or organisation, including anything which may constitute an allegation of incompetence or a damaging critique, they should be given an opportunity to respond. This both helps us reduce risk of harm to the person described and helps us achieve accuracy in our content.

 

3.8 Refusal to Participate

As part of our commitment to informed consent, nobody should ever be forced to contribute in any way to our content.

 

3.9 Deception

Public interest: It will rarely be acceptable, fair, or appropriate for us to withhold information about the nature of a contribution from a potential contributor in order to obtain their contribution. However, there may be cases where doing so is in the public interest and it is not possible to obtain the material by any other means.

Deception for comedy / entertainment: Content including pranks or wind-ups should be pre- recorded and consent gained prior to broadcast if the contributor is to be identifiable in the content. Deception should not be used to humiliate, distress, or embarrass an individual and, where possible, we should consult with friends or family of the contributor to aid our risk assessment prior to recording.

 

3.10 Portrayal of Real People in Fiction

Where possible, we should always notify someone if they are to be portrayed in fictional content. This is less important if they are in the public eye, especially where the content of the portrayal focusses on the public aspect of their life.

If the individual or close relatives object to the portrayal, any decision to proceed regardless should be referred to both (i) the most senior executive working on the programme, who must ensure that the portrayal is fair, based on substantial and well-sourced evidence, and in the public interest; and (ii) Manoto’s Managing Director.​

Risk assessment template

This matrix is not intended to be exhaustive or prescriptive. It is intended to be a starting point for assessing the risk of unfairness or harm to a contributor or potential contributor.

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