Ethical Guidelines for the Production of Programmes and Content
The Board of Directors approved the revised guidelines at its meeting on 17 November 2017. Guidelines have been updated 4th of November 2021.
Yle's Ethical Guidelines for the Production of Programmes and Content, together with the Guidelines for Journalists, are binding on all who participate in the production of programmes or content at or for Yle.
Yle’s operations are based on the principles of independence, impartiality and reliability. We resist any attempts to influence our journalism. Political, commercial or similar interests have no influence on our editorial content.
Yle uses these guidelines to be able to produce bold and diverse journalism and content for Finnish audiences. The producers of Yle programmes and content know their responsibilities and comply with the principles of these guidelines in their work and when appearing in public in the role of a Yle employee.
The guidelines do not provide answers to all detailed questions related to the production of programmes and content. When there is doubt about the interpretation of the guidelines, the responsible editor makes the necessary decisions.
In these guidelines, we use the terms “programme”, “content” and “broadcast”. These guidelines may also be referred to using the Finnish abbreviation “OTS”.
Legislation and ethical guidelines that bind Yle
Yle’s operations are based on the Act on Yleisradio Oy (Finnish Broadcasting Company). Other laws that apply to Yle’s operations include the Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media, the Information Society Code, the Copyright Act, and the Criminal Code’s sections on the protection of personal reputation and privacy. These guidelines take these laws and regulations into account.
Yle is committed to complying with the Guidelines for Journalists issued and interpreted by the Council for Mass Media in Finland. The Ethical Guidelines for the Production of Programmes and Content take the principles of the Guidelines for Journalists into account.
Distribution of responsibilities
All employees are personally responsible for carrying out their daily production operations in compliance with laws, the Ethical Guidelines for Content, and the instructions issued by the responsible editor or supervisor.
The supervisors in charge of daily production operations are also personally responsible for compliance with the above.
Legal supervisory responsibility for Yle's broadcasting operations lies with responsible editors, as defined in the Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media. Responsible editors manage and supervise editorial work and ensure that it complies with the legislation, the Ethical Guidelines for the Production of Programmes and Content, and other applicable ethical guidelines. The responsible editor also makes the decision on publishing the materials.
The responsible editor may delegate supervision duties to persons he or she chooses. If, however, the responsible editor is solely responsible for making the decision in accordance with these guidelines, the responsibility for making the decision can only be delegated to the responsible editor’s substitute or a person specifically nominated by the responsible editor for that particular task.
Yles's general principles for the production of programmes and content
1. Journalism at Yle is based on Yle's values. Journalism at Yle must be built on truthful, relevant and diverse communication of information. Interaction with the public must exist.
We seek information from diverse sources in an unprejudiced manner to ensure that our journalism is impartial, independent and reliable. We take all relevant facts and different perspectives into account, and we give parties who receive criticism an opportunity to be heard as soon as the criticism has been presented. We are not afraid to ask questions and question the accuracy of information.
Journalism at Yle aims to offer the public the opportunity to build their view of the world on correct information and facts, as well as on observations that are as detailed as possible.
2. Yle's programmes and content include as wide a variety of opinions, values and social phenomena as possible.
We promote pluralistic social discourse and interaction. Our programmes must reflect many different opinions.
Equality is an objective of our programme and content production operations as a whole, as well as an objective of individual programmes. However, if equality cannot be achieved in the case of one individual programme, we will ensure that it will be achieved with other similar programmes within a reasonable period of time.
3. Audiences must be given the opportunity to differentiate facts and their background information from opinions and fictional content.
When presenting factual content, we do not use image or sound in a manner that distorts the events or information. We make sure that the image and sound give a truthful impression of matters and events.
When we edit factual materials in a fictional direction, the context or the manner in which the materials are used must make it evident that editing has been done.
In our programmes and web materials, we make a clear difference between editorial materials and the space reserved for the opinions of the public.
4. Yle's programme production and content publishing must be independent of all external sources of influence, and all pressure, persuasion or bribery must be rejected.
Yle remains independent of any political, commercial or other external interests.
Yle does not allow external interests to influence its journalism. We base our decision to publish any content on substance and journalistic criteria.
We do not accept benefits that would jeopardise our independence, impartiality and reliability as producers of Yle’s programmes.
When producing programmes and content, we do not acquire, accept or require benefits for ourselves, nor do we allow ourselves to be used as a tool of commercial communication.
We do not use Yle's programmes and content to promote our own interests or views, and we do not take sides when dealing with controversial issues.
When exercising our civil rights, such as freedom of speech or participation in social media, for example, we consider the effects of our actions and do not jeopardise our own personal reliability or the reputation of the company as a reliable, impartial and independent media channel. We also carefully consider our actions on social media, particularly when acting as Yle employees and discussing issues related to Yle as an employer or the working community.
5. The human dignity of every individual must be respected. Pluralism is one of our basic values.
The gender, age, origin, native language, religion, worldview, health, disabilities or other personal characteristics of a person must not be portrayed in an inappropriate or demeaning manner.
We respect the protection of privacy and human dignity. We aim to make sure that the messages sent to our live programmes or website by members of the audience do not violate anyone's human dignity.
Examples of violations of human dignity include discrimination, incitement to violence, and incitement to hatred towards an individual or population group. We reject such content and remove it when it is brought to our attention.
The public can report inappropriate content on our website.
Acqusition and verification of information, confindentiality and sourcses
6. Acquisition of information must be open, and based on reliable sources that can be verified when necessary.
We carefully ensure that facts are correct.
When acquiring information, we prefer sources that can be verified through interviews, documents or other similar methods. We only use anonymous sources as the sole source of information in exceptional cases. Careful verification of materials, preferably from several different sources, is particularly important if the materials could be defamatory.
7. A critical attitude towards information sources is necessary.
When assessing the reliability of a source, the source's potential ulterior motives of gaining benefit or inflicting damage must be considered.
A critical attitude is particularly important when an anonymous source is used. A critical attitude towards the source of information is also important when dealing with controversial issues.
8. All information must be verified as far as possible, even when it has been published previously.
Verification of previously published public information is a central factor in reliability. The more significance the information has, the more important it is to verify it.
In a situation with a rapidly changing news flow, information previously published by a media outlet that is considered reliable can be published by Yle if we can consider the information to be correct. If the content may violate the stipulations on the protection of personal reputation or privacy, we always verify the information before publishing it.
The starting points for our work are correctness and comprehensibility. When situations change rapidly and an ongoing crisis is evolving, it must be accepted that complete information cannot be immediately obtained and that the true nature of events is only gradually revealed.
9. Exceptional methods can only be used to acquire information if conventional methods do not yield information that has great social importance.
When we use exceptional methods to obtain information, we tell the public why we have chosen to do so, and we give the subject of the story an opportunity to be heard at the same time, if possible.
Exceptional methods include filming or recording without the subject's knowledge (but not in a way that violates any laws) and withholding information about the reporter's profession or identity. Exceptional methods must always be agreed on beforehand with the supervisor and responsible editor.
We also ensure that information acquired with exceptional methods is not used in a misleading manner or in a way that inflicts damage on outsiders.
10. The journalist and publisher are entitled to maintain the confidentiality of their sources.
The Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media guarantees the producers of our content the right to maintain the confidentiality of sources even during police investigations and legal proceedings if the information does not concern events defined in legislation as felonies.
The protection of sources is an important way of revealing information of great social importance that would otherwise remain hidden.
We do not, however, keep sources confidential automatically or when it is not necessary. When assessing information, it is very important to take a critical attitude towards its source. When assessing how important and correct information is with regard to confidentiality of sources, the reporter must provide all his or her information on the identity of the source, as well as any interviews and filmed materials, so that these can be considered by the supervisor and the responsible editor before the information is published. The supervisor and responsible editor are also bound by the obligation to keep the source confidential. It is recommended that the information source is told in advance who will receive information about his or her identity.
Journalists have the right and obligation to follow any agreement made with the source to conceal the identity of a person who has provided information in confidence.
When publishing information received from an anonymous source, it is recommended that the audiences are told how the reliability of the anonymous source and the received information has been verified.
Interviews and the rights of the interviewee
11. We act in an open manner when approaching an interviewee as representatives of Yle.
We always inform the interviewee beforehand whether the interview will be published or whether its purpose is to acquire background material.
When conducting an interview that will be published, we explain that the materials may be used in a variety of published content according to the principles of the Ethical Guidelines for the Production of Programmes and Content. The interviewee must be told about the context in which the interview is meant to be used and, if possible, when it will be published.
12. Interviewees have the right to review their answers before they are published if the technical editorial process allows this.
We act in an open manner, but we retain journalistic control of our materials. If the publishing schedule allows it, the interviewee may see, hear or read the content to be published (or at least his or her own section of it) in order to review the content of his or her statements. Even then, we will also tell him or her how the statements will be used.
When using archived materials, we take into account the fact that the meaning or tone of the statement may have changed with time.
13. An interviewee may only forbid the use of his or her statements if the circumstances have essentially changed after the interview so that publishing would be unreasonable.
In such cases, the responsible editor makes the decision on publishing the material.
Protection of privacy
14. Information or images considered to be private that are detrimental to the subject can only be published with the consent of the subject, unless publishing is considered necessary to be able to discuss a matter of social importance related to the subject, or his or her position in life.
We are bound by law when defining protection of privacy. We consider the different levels of influence and social position that individuals possess, as well as whether the subject has purposefully set out to become a public figure. The higher the position of influence a person holds or the more important the matter related to him or her is, the smaller is the sphere of private life that we cannot present. We do not publish information that could cause damage or suffering to the subject if published and which is considered private, unless the subject has power in society. The responsible editor makes the publishing decision in such cases.
Protection of the privacy of an individual may also be narrowed down to cover a smaller sphere of private life if he or she has achieved something or has acted in a manner that increases public interest. However, public figures also have a right to privacy. We always consider these cases carefully and respect the human dignity of the subject.
Information on an individual's way of life, intimate matters and children is generally considered to fall within the scope of protection of privacy. We can only publish such information with the consent of the individual.
We exercise particular care in cases where the information is related to the individual's physical or psychological qualities, or his or her personality.
When an interview concerns the private life of a person belonging to the interviewee's circle of acquaintances, the consent of that person must also be acquired.
We use particular tact in cases involving death or a crisis.
15. Not all public materials are necessarily suited for publication.
Not all public documents are automatically suited for publishing. Documents may, for example, include personal or financial information pertaining to a person's private life that falls into the scope of protection of privacy. We cannot publish such information without the consent of the person.
16. Persons targeted by intense criticism have the right to defend themselves.
If a programme contains forceful criticism targeted at an identifiable person or community, the target of criticism must be given the opportunity to be heard at the same time if possible. If this cannot be arranged at the same time, the person may have to be heard afterwards.
If the person does not wish to be heard or he or she cannot be reached, we will explain to the audience why he or she has not been heard.
We agree on the procedure with the responsible editor.
17. When filming children and teenagers, special care is necessary. Websites targeted at children and teenagers must also be supervised with special care.
We protect children as both performers and the target groups of programmes and content through taking particular care.
Permission from parents or guardians is generally necessary when children of primary school age or below are filmed or interviewed. Children can, however, be filmed and interviewed without the permission of parents or guardians in a neutral context and as part of a large group.
The parents’ or guardians’ consent does not automatically constitute a permission to publish personal information that may be harmful to a child or teenager.
Decisions to publish information relating to a child must be made with regard to protecting the integrity and interests of the child. In other words, the interests of the child must be foremost in your mind when thinking about whether or not to publish information that may be harmful to the child, even if the parents or guardian have given their permission.
We always take special care when interviewing children and teenagers in crisis situations.
Our programme schedule, advance information and online content comply with the stipulations of the Act on Audiovisual Programmes.
We also observe the agreement between national television broadcasters on advance information and broadcasting schedules of programmes that are not suitable for children.
With regard to our online services, we make sure that children are not subjected to abuse or bullying.
We avoid violent behavioural models and the depiction of violence in programmes and content targeted at children.
We apply these principles to the presentation of news and current affairs so that they do not prevent communication of information.
18. Activities taking place in public locations can usually be reported and filmed without the consent of those involved, with certain restrictions.
People can be filmed when in a public location. When using the materials thus produced, we observe statutory regulations on the protection of privacy and personal dignity, as well as ethical guidelines. We take the wishes of people being filmed into account unless journalistic considerations require otherwise.
19. Images or sound must not be used in an offensive of tactless manner.
We take special care when publishing materials on the victims of accidents or crimes. We use tact when filming or interviewing disabled or sick people, or people who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Handling and publishing materials related to crimes
20. Victims of crimes must be protected.
We protect the privacy of the victim of a crime as well as that of outsiders. We do not publish names or other identifiable information without a very good reason. Such a very good reason may be, for example, the position of the victim as a person with national political, financial or administrative power.
We take particular care to protect the victim of crimes of a delicate nature.
The name of the person who committed the crime must not be revealed when the court decision is reported if it would also reveal the identity of the victim and this would cause harm to the victim.
21. When no court decision has been given, there must be careful consideration of whether the names of suspects, accused people, or people under pretrial investigation can be published.
The name or other identifiable information of a person must not be published before court proceedings take place unless the matter is of considerable general importance or applies to a person with high social influence, or unless the publishing of the information is necessary to avoid unfounded suspicions being directed towards third parties.
Publishing the name of a public figure may be justified if his or her actions have social importance.
We only publish the names of ordinary citizens suspected of crimes in exceptional circumstances. An exceptional situation may arise when public safety is at risk.
We agree on publishing the name with the responsible editor.
22. Careful consideration is necessary when publishing the name of a person convicted of a crime.
When considering the publishing of a name, we always consider the stipulations of the Criminal Code regarding private life. If the matter is of great general importance and the person convicted of a crime holds a position of wide responsibility, publishing the name may be well justified. Publishing the name may also be necessary to avoid unfounded suspicions being directed at third parties.
It is generally better to refrain from publishing the name of a person convicted of a crime who is underage or considered criminally irresponsible.
23. Detailed reports or images of criminal methodology must be avoided.
We do not provide detailed instructions on how to commit a crime, encourage criminal activities, or support such activities.
Details may be used as examples to provide background information on criminal activities in cases where the matter has general importance and very strong journalistic justification exists to support the decision.
24. Court documents are generally public, but not necessarily suited for publication.
Court records and other documents related to the court proceedings are public. Protection of privacy does, however, also apply to information about private life contained in court materials, such as personal or financial information. We cannot publish such information without the consent of the individual in question.
25. A reported court case must be followed up until its conclusion.
If a case has been reported at the stage where suspicions have arisen, investigations have been made or charges have been laid, and the identity of the accused has been revealed, the case must, if possible, be followed up on through all instances until the conclusion, and the court decision must be reported to the audience.
26. The final outcome of the court proceedings must not be influenced.
We express no opinion on whether the accused is guilty before a court decision has been reached, and we do not aim to influence the court's decisions during the proceedings.
Quotes and the use of archived materials
27. The source must be mentioned when quoting information or publishing images previously published by others.
When quoting information or publishing materials previously published by other parties, we follow the proper journalistic practice and mention the source.
When such materials are published on one of our websites, we add a link to the original source when possible.
The more materials are taken from previously published sources, the more visible the source information must be.
28. When using archived materials, the original information or material must not be distorted.
When using archived materials, we apply the same principles of the Ethical Guidelines for the Production of Programmes or Content as when using new materials.
The use of materials with potential privacy protection issues must be considered with particular care.
Correction of errors
29. Any errors must be corrected without delay. We do not remove materials published and archived through the web service; instead, we publish the correct information together with the original information.
We correct any errors as soon as possible, unless the error is of such menial importance that correction is unnecessary. We always correct web materials immediately. We also correct errors in the same environment where the information was originally published, that is, in the same programme and the same channel of the same media.
In cases of dispute, the responsible editor makes the decision on corrections.
When correcting information published on the web service, an explanation of what has been corrected and when must be added. We do not remove published information from the web service without providing information about the reason for and time of the removal at the original web address.
We comply with the stipulations of the Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media on replies and corrections, and the instructions on publishing condemnatory decisions by the Council for Mass Media in Finland.
A demand to correct an error in accordance with the Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media may be sent to the responsible editor within 14 days of the publishing of the information. Yle will respond to the demand within seven days.
Advertising and sponsorship operations
30. Yle must not provide advertisements in connection with its television or radio programmes or web services.
We take a critical attitude towards materials that have commercial interests related to them. We only publish such materials if the publishing decision can be supported by journalistic considerations or the content is such that it should be published. We refuse to be used as a tool for advertising or marketing communication.
The content published by Yle must not contain advertising or marketing communication. Yle must not send advertising materials in connection with its television or radio programmes or other content services that it provides over public communication networks and that fall within the scope of its public service duties. Yle does not produce sponsored programmes.
Product placement and subliminal advertising are forbidden.
When we make requests for text or film materials, or other similar materials, for the purposes of programme production, we make it clear that we cannot be used as a medium for commercial messages.
When broadcasting sports events, we comply with the regulation on the placement of advertisements at the sport venue, approved by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and international sports foundations.
We avoid purposeful and repeated showing of advertisements and logos placed at the sport venue.
31. Our programmes must not be used for commercial advertising.
Our programmes or content must not be used for advertising purposes.
The company's own cooperation projects, for which Yle has decided to allow advertising and agreed on the marketing methods to be used, are an exception.
Our web content may be linked from other sites according to the appropriate linking practice.
32. Yle does not produce sponsored programmes.
Programmes produced by independent production companies may have external financing, in which case the sponsoring stipulations provided in television and radio legislation apply.
A sponsor must not influence the content or its placement in a manner that jeopardises the responsibilities or independence of the publisher. The content or programme must not refer to the sponsor's products or encourage the audience to buy the sponsor's products or services.
We do not broadcast programmes or content financed by a company or community whose field of operations the programme discusses or whose position or sales of products or services the programme could influence.
The name of the sponsor must be clearly stated at the beginning or end of sponsored programmes.
Yle may produce public service content in cooperation with partners with special statutory duties to achieve socio-political objectives or public good. Such cooperation does not constitute a sponsorship. A separate partnership agreement is drawn up to agree on the rules of the cooperation.
Handing over materials
33. Transferring Yle's editorial material
Completed programmes are copyrighted. Yle has agreed on the terms of their transfer with the copyright owners.
The responsible editor decides on transferring the material for pretrial investigation, a trial, or in situations referred to in the Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media.
Yle does not transfer unpublished editorial background or raw material outside the company.
Pre-election programmes and presentation of candidates
34. The Administrative Council decides on the principles to be applied to special pre-election programmes.
The principles to be complied with when producing special pre-election programmes before parliamentary, European, county, municipal or presidential elections are decided by the Yle Administrative Council based on section 10 of the Act on Political Parties, with attention to the context of the programme.
35. The presentation of candidates in Yle's programmes and content must be such that no candidate receives a particular advantage compared to other candidates.
Yle reports elections in a reliable, independent and impartial manner. The candidates may appear on programmes and in content before the election; appearances are not prohibited. Appearances of candidates or potential candidates on news and current affairs programmes are justified based on news criteria. In other than news programmes, Yle tends to coordinate the appearances to ensure equal treatment of all candidates.
Employees who work in editorial positions in the company or produce programmes or content for the company and become candidates or are candidates in an election, or who engage in public promotion of a candidate must be transferred as soon as possible to a position where they or the candidates they support cannot gain any benefit compared to other candidates or jeopardise the reliability, impartiality and independence of the company.
During elections, other producers of programmes or content should also consider the impact their public political participation could have on their reliability and on the company's reputation as a reliable, impartial and independent media organisation.
The guidelines have been updated 25th of February 2019.
Section 17: Added a reference to taking into account of the best interest of a child in case of publishing information harmful to the child.
The guidelines have been updated 4th of November 2021.
Section 34: Added a mention of County Elections.