With recent revelations of BBC TV presenters big buck salaries, it would be natural to assume that all TV guests on news programmes and in documentaries are paid at least a token appearance fee.
Especially since interviews can take the best part of half a day. If it’s a live studio interview for a news programme, you will be expected to be there early for hair and make-up and for a briefing. If it’s a pre-recorded interview on location, it will take several takes and cover all angles so the producer can go back with everything covered!
But this doesn’t always mean that TV guests get paid. As media trainers here at Nine, we are often asked if it is appropriate to request an interview fee. The answer is it depends.
Reasons a broadcaster will not pay would be:
1. There’s no budget (almost always the case in radio). Despite the fact that the TV industry has shown it has large budgets for presenters, production budgets are tighter than ever with the competition of so many digital platforms.
2. You are promoting something. If you there to talk about a business, a book, a productor it’s a celebrity promoting a new film then it is presumed that the exposure is payment enough. The BBC is very particularly careful about not to be seen promoting something. So if you are talking about a business / book / product etc it must have some news value. Often they won’t let you have a book in front of you on the table for example because it can be considered to be product placement.
3. If payment could be seen as an incentive. There are editorial concerns that paying on-screen contributors gives a reason for people to embellish experiences for media attention.
This is the grey area though, and broadcasters may use this as an excuse not to pay, when in fact it is ok to pay an interviewee for giving up their time.
The Channel 4 Producer’s guidelines state: “It is perfectly acceptable to pay a fee to an expert or to pay a modest sum to an interviewee who has given up their time to be filmed.”
However Ofcom guidelines state exceptions:
- Criminals or those involved in serious anti-social behaviour whether convicted or confessed, for interviews about their crimes or behaviour;
- Any witness or any person likely to be a witness in criminal proceedings;
- Children under 16 or a vulnerable person (i.e. those with learning difficulties, or mental health problems);
- A confidential source or whistleblower;
- A person secretly filmed or recorded;
- An official in public office for information;
Nine Media’s Helen Croydon reviewing papers on Sky News: Payment is acceptable for professional appearances but not promotional ones.
Journalists or commentators, whose job it is to share knowledge will be paid. But not if they are promoting something. For example, as a journalist I sometimes appear on Sky News or BBC for paper reviews or to talk about a topic I’ve written about. Since this is my professionnal role, I will be paid. But when I’ve done an interview to talk about the release of a book I would not be.
If you are a PR pitching your client to the broadcast media, the most common interview scenariowould be them promoting their business or product, in which case they would not be paid. The most important thing from a PR perspective in that situation is to make sure they get the all-important on-screen credit.
Check with the producer that their business or product will be mentioned. For example: Author of Spokesperson for [business]. Professor at [your university]. Author of [book title] etc.
Want to know more about the broadcast media? Join our next Broadcast Briefing for PRs. Learn how TV and radio news decide their stories, how to tailor your story pitches for TV and radio and how to build contacts with planners and producers. See our courses.