Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics

Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics
News and Information Services Division
Television Broadcasts Limited

  1. The primary purpose of all employees working in the News and Information Services Division of Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB News) is to inform the public of events of importance and appropriate interest in a manner that is fair, balanced, accurate and comprehensive. This primary purpose shall override all other purposes.
  2. TVB News fully recognizes that the power it has inherited as one of the dominant news media in Hong Kong carries with it special responsibilities:
    1. to listen to the voiceless;
    2. to avoid any and all acts of arrogance;
    3. to face the public politely and candidly.
  3. TVB News is pledged to an aggressive, responsible and fair pursuit of the truth without fear or favor.
  4. TVB News reporters, news editors, public affairs reporters/producers, executive producers, program directors, cameramen and tape editors are pledged to approach every assignment with the fairness of open minds and without prejudicial mindset. The search for opposing views must be as a matter of course. Comment from persons accused or challenged in stories must be included. The motives of those who press their views upon TVB News must as a matter of course be examined, and it must be recognized that those motives may be noble or ignoble, obvious or ulterior.
  5. Conflict of Interest
    TVB News is pledged to avoid conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest, wherever and whenever possible. We have adopted stringent policies on these issues, conscious that they may be more restrictive than is customary in the world of private business. In particular:
    1. We pay our own way.
    2. We accept no gifts from news sources. We accept no free trips. In cases in which reporting trips have been arranged by a news source, such as Central Liaison Office, and there are no other ways to cover such news events, every effort must be made to reimburse the news source for the trips at cost.
    3. We neither seek nor accept preferential treatment that might be rendered because of the positions we hold. Exceptions to the no–gift rule are few and obvious—invitation to meals, for example.
    4. Free admissions to any event that is not free to the public are prohibited. The only exception is for seats not sold to the public, as in a press section of a sports event. Whenever possible, arrangements should be made to pay for even such seats.
    5. We work for no one except TVB News. Many outside activities and jobs are incompatible with the proper performance of work in an independent news organization. Connections with governments and financial institutions such as banks, investment firms, brokerages and stock markets are among the most objectionable.
    6. We freelance for no one and accept no speaking engagements without permission from the Controller (News and Information Services). Permission for freelancing will be granted only if TVB News has no interest in the story and only if it is to appear in an overseas medium not circulated or broadcast in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan or Mainland China. It is important that no freelance assignments and no honoraria be accepted that might in any way be interpreted as disguised gratuities.
    7. We make every reasonable effort to be free of obligation to news sources and to special interests. We must be wary of entanglement with those whose positions render them likely to be subjects of journalistic interest and examination. Our private behavior as well as our professional behavior must not bring discredit to our profession or to TVB News.
    8. We are barred from active involvement in any partisan causes—politics, community affairs, social action, demonstrations—that could compromise or seem to compromise our ability to report and edit fairly.
  6. Selection of Material
    1. Material for newscasts and public affairs programs will be selected on the criteria of significance, community and regional relevance, appropriate human interest, service to TVB News’ defined viewerships.
    2. Such selection standard excludes sensationalism or misleading emphasis in any form; subservience to external or “interested” party’s efforts to influence news selection and presentation, whether from within the broadcasting industry or from without.
    3. Such selection standard also precludes undue use of sound and visual effects when such techniques add no relevant information to a news story or program, but are merely intended to pander to the visual and/or aural sensation of the viewer.
    4. Such selection standard requires that bombastic or misleading promotional descriptions of newsroom facilities and personnel be rejected; and that promotional or publicity material be sharply scrutinized before use and identified by source or otherwise when broadcast.
  7. The Role of TVB News reporters, news editors, public affairs reporters/ producers, executive producers, program directors, cameramen and tape editors
    1. Reporters, news editors, public affairs reporters/producers, executive producers, program directors, cameramen and tape editors should make every effort to remain in the audience, to stay off the stage, to report the news, not to make the news.
    2. In gathering news, reporters, news editors, public affairs reporters/ producers, and cameramen will not misrepresent their identity. They will identify themselves only as journalists, and not as police officers, physicians or members of any other profession or trade.
    3. All undercover investigations, clandestine videofilming and unannounced audio recording must have prior approval of the executive news editor or the executive producer. (Also see Paragraph 15)
  8. Errors
    TVB News is pledged to avoid errors and to correct those that occur, during the same newscast, public affairs program or online news update, if possible; otherwise, in the next newscast, public affairs program or online news update. Persons who call errors to our attention must be accorded a respectful hearing and given a courteous answer.
  9. Attribution of Sources
    1. TVB News is pledged to disclose the source of all information when at all possible. However, when a TVB News staffer agrees to protect a source’s identity, that identity will not be made known to anyone outside of TVB News.
    2. Before any information is accepted without full attribution, reporters and producers must make every reasonable effort to get it on record. If that is not possible, reporters and producers should consider seeking the information elsewhere. If that in turn is not possible, reporters and producers should request an on–the–record reason for concealing the source’s identity and should include the reason in the story.
    3. In any case, some kind of identification is almost always possible—by department or by position, for example—and should be reported.
    4. No pseudonyms are to be used, unless clearly stated that they are pseudonyms and the reasons for using them instead of the interviewees’ real names.
  10. Plagiarism and Credit
    Attribution of material from other media, whether print, electronic or online, and news agencies must be total. Plagiarism is one of journalism’s unforgivable sins. It is the policy of TVB News to give credit to other media that develop exclusive stories worthy of follow–up by TVB News.
  11. Fairness
    Reporters, news editors, public affairs reporters/producers, executive producers, program directors, cameramen and tape editors of TVB News are committed to fairness. Fairness results from a few simple practices:
    1. No story is fair if it omits facts of major importance or significance. Fairness includes completeness.
    2. No story is fair if it includes essentially irrelevant information at the expense of significant facts. Fairness includes relevance.
    3. No story is fair if it consciously or unconsciously misleads or even deceives the viewer. Fairness includes honesty. We must level with the viewers.
    4. No story is fair if reporters and/or producers hide their biases or emotions behind subtle pejorative words. Fairness requires straight–forwardness ahead of flashiness.
  12. Opinion
    TVB News feels that it can serve its viewers best by providing them with the fullest information possible without tainting it with the reporter’s or editor’s/ producer’s own opinion on any given issue. However, this facts–only policy is not intended to eliminate from our coverage honest, in–depth reporting, or analysis, or commentary when plainly labeled as such.
  13. Public Interest
    TVB News is vitally concerned with public interest. We believe this interest is best served by the widest possible dissemination of information. The claim of public interest by a government or business official does not automatically equate it with the interest of the public.
  14. Taste
    TVB News is an organization that respects taste and decency. We shall avoid profanities and obscenities unless their use is so essential to a story of significance that its meaning is lost without them. In no case shall profanities or obscenities be used without the approval of either the executive news editor, managing editor, supervising producer, executive producer or a more senior supervisor.
  15. Use of Hidden Camera and/or Microphone
    1. Hidden cameras and/or microphones may be used only when the information obtained is of profound importance. It must be of vital public interest, such as revealing great “system failure” at the top levels, or it must prevent profound harm to individuals.
    2. Hidden cameras and/or microphones may be used only when all other alternatives for obtaining the same information have been exhausted.
    3. Hidden cameras and/or microphones may be used only when the harm prevented by the information revealed through deception outweighs any harm caused by the act of deception.
    4. Hidden cameras and/or microphones may be used only when the journalists involved have conducted a meaningful, collaborative, and deliberative decision making process.
    5. Hidden cameras and/or microphones may not be used for winning a prize, beating the competition, getting the story with less expense of time and resources, doing it because our competitors do it regularly, or the subjects of the story are themselves unethical.
  16. Observing and Updating These Standards and Code
    1. These Standards and Code are to be observed by all employees of TVB News in carrying out their duties and obligations as journalists.
    2. Should there be questions on any of these Standards and Code, employees are encouraged to discuss same with their supervisors and/or news executives.
    3. No rules and regulations are carved in stone; neither are therefore these Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. When changes in community standards, circumstances and technology necessitate revisions of these Standards and Code, TVB News will do so accordingly, but only after extensive consultation with all employees.

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English version updated in May, 2012.

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