Policies & Standards
Documentary policies and standards
Independent producers must adhere to the following standards:
- Political activity. TVO maintains a policy of political neutrality which is essential to our work. During the time documentary producers are working on a commission from TVO, they should refrain from political activity. They should not seek or hold public office of any kind nor have any overt involvement with political parties.
- Verification. Material presented as factual must be verified by knowledgeable sources. Plagiarism and knowingly presenting false material is not acceptable.
- Producers and others working on a TVO documentary must not accept any benefits, rewards, or payments from any person or organization that is connected with the documentary. They must not obtain information through promises, threats, harassment or deception. They must maintain civil standards of behavior during production, especially in public areas.
- Documentaries as a form represent the intersection of art and journalism - what John Grierson called "the creative treatment of actuality." As such, TVO accepts that controversial subject matter may be presented in bold and unconventional ways. However, each documentary must make its case for its point of view. In this respect, TVO will demand extensive research and, if it deems necessary, acknowledgement of contrary views. TVO may reject a documentary if these demands are not fulfilled. As part of its mandate to provide in-depth current affairs, TVO will provide space on its broadcast or digital platforms for context and debate in the case of documentaries that raise troubling and controversial questions.
- TVO encourages innovation and may accept the use of genres such as drama, comedy, animation, artistic manipulation of images and sound, and other innovative techniques. But technique is not a substitute for substance and transparency is key: if artifice is used, it must be eventually clear to the reasonable viewer. The results can never mislead or deceive.
- TVO may accept strong content that might be offensive to some viewers if its exclusion will distort reality or impair quality.
- By accepting a TVO commission, producers acknowledge their ethical responsibilities to their subjects and viewers. This is of particular importance in the case of documentaries that illuminate the lives of the marginal and powerless. In such cases, these general principles apply:
- Do no harm and protect the vulnerable.
- Acknowledge the extent of decision-making that is shared with the subject(s).
- Refrain from paying subjects for their participation.
- Refrain from misrepresenting identity or intent, except in rare cases where the public interest justifies it, or personal safety requires it.