Responsible Content and Advertising at Paramount

Aug 17, 2023 10:00 AM ET

Originally published in Paramount's 2021-2022 Environmental, Social, and Governance Report

What ends up on the screen – and how it gets there – is an important ESG consideration for our company. We adhere to standards and procedures to ensure accuracy of our content and creative independence, safeguard vulnerable groups, and handle challenging issues responsibly in our content and advertising.

Standards and Practices 

Paramount’s Standards and Practices department is responsible for overseeing advertising and original content shown on several of our key platforms. We work closely with producers, advertisers, and other partners to ensure that content complies with governmental regulations, cultural mores, internal standards, voluntary content ratings, and advertising guidelines. In addition to applicable regulations, Paramount maintains its own controls for content and advertisements developed and regularly updated in accordance with industry best practices, brand identities, advertiser and public expectations, and audience demographics.

To maintain its independence, the Standards and Practices group is not part of either the creative or ad sales groups. Rather, it reports directly to our corporate legal team.

Accountability for Diverse Content 

Our Standards and Practices department partners with internal groups such as Social Impact, Government Relations, and the Office of Global Inclusion (OGI) to ensure that our content and advertisements accurately represent the diverse perspectives and experiences of marginalized groups, while meeting all relevant moral, legal, and ethical standards.

Paramount’s day-to-day work on DE&I spans many topics and involves many groups, under the oversight of the OGI. Our Global Inclusion Advisory Committee (GIAC), a cross-functional leadership “think tank,” provides strategic insights into the direction of the diversity and inclusion initiatives in collaboration with the OGI team. GIAC is co-chaired by our CEO and our Global Head of Inclusion, along with leaders from across the company. The group drives and implements solutions that advance DE&I across our business, including through content, workforce and talent development, and community and social programs.

To inform and validate our efforts to develop diverse content, Paramount also regularly consults with organizations like Color Of Change, SeeALL, and SeeHer. To support DE&I practices within our full content creation lifecycle, we also work with the National Action Network, the NAACP, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Hispanic Heritage Foundation, and others.

Paramount’s Anti-Bias Policy on Content 

The Paramount library represents decades of content, and we recognize that some of our programs include culturally insensitive material and/or potentially offensive portrayals of people and/or cultures. As Paramount strives to create content that fully embraces diversity, inclusivity, and equity in all its forms, we believe that instead of removing this content, it’s important we use it to remain accountable: to acknowledge our history, learn from our failings, and spark dialogue that helps transform the world for the better – one person, one story, and one program at a time.

Ensuring Accuracy and Independence 

Across many parts of our business, such as our News divisions, we work diligently to uphold our commitment to journalistic integrity. Our creators and producers bring creativity and precision to the content they deliver to our audiences. In the news and public affairs programming we produce through CBS News, CBS Sports, Channel 5 in the UK, Telefe in Argentina, and Network 10 in Australia – as well as editorial units and programs across all our brands – accuracy is essential to maintaining our viewers’ trust. Key to this commitment is our editorial independence from external entities, including government agencies.

To ensure quality and accuracy, independence, and fairness in our news organizations, as well as, where appropriate, protecting the privacy of sources, we follow a set of established internal editorial policies and best practices. In addition, the dedicated research and reporting teams at CBS News, Channel 5 in the UK, Telefe in Argentina, and Network 10 in Australia follow a rigorous process for gathering and verifying content, guided by a commitment to journalistic integrity.

Intellectual Property and Copyright 

For Paramount, the protection of intellectual property (IP) is a priority because acts of piracy directly undermine the creators we work with every day. Such acts also directly affect our bottom line, resulting in lost revenue, lost jobs, and lost wages. In our Global Business Conduct Statement, Paramount sets clear standards and expectations regarding IP and copyright. In addition, our strict copyright policy sets clear guidelines for soliciting content through social media, as a means of protecting the IP we own, as well as other protected IP. Given the steady proliferation of new business models and distribution channels, we regularly review our policies and practices when protecting and valuing our IP.

Responsible Advertising 

To our audiences, the advertising we show can be just as influential as our content. That’s why our Standards and Practices group ensures that all commercial content meets the applicable government and legal requirements, self-regulatory industry guidelines, and company/brand standards. Our policies prohibit advertising for products such as tobacco, illegal drugs or services, pornography, and weapons. And our team also ensures that the advertisements we show do not portray discriminatory actions or harmful behaviors.

Recent years have seen a sea change in how advertisers want to reach key audiences. The divisiveness of the public discourse, as well as the rising prominence of social justice issues, have become mission critical for advertisers. In 2021, we received 16 separate requests from advertisers for information (RFIs) directly related to ESG topics. Nine of them had a focus on DE&I and others were related to environmental sustainability. Our Ad Sales team shares those DE&I-related RFIs with our ESG and OGI teams and we respond to them together.

We place special scrutiny and restrictions on advertisements related to highly sensitive categories like gambling, sportsbooks, religion, politics, and advocacy. There have been changing guidelines about sports gambling, both from the FCC and from partners, such as the NFL. Our policy permits advertisements for brick-and-mortar casinos that comply with federal, state and local laws, and regulations, and in which the gambling is incidental and does not include the exchange of money.

Advertisements for online sports gambling websites (sportsbook advertising) are subject to more stringent requirements. In addition to complying with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations, these advertisers must include on-screen legal text indicating age and state restrictions as well as a toll-free number and/or URL that vary by state to seek help with gambling addiction.

Advertisements for distilled spirits adhere to all industry self-regulatory requirements including a standardized audience composition. Additionally, we also assess placement for program appropriateness and brand considerations. All alcohol product advertisements should also contain a “responsible drinking” statement, and hard liquor advertisements must contain a video super – industry shorthand for superimposed text or graphics that appear on screen during a video presentation – indicating the alcohol content by volume.

Safeguards for Children 

For some of our brands, such as Nickelodeon, children are a central audience. Our responsibility to provide an appropriate experience for them is one we take seriously. Our brands are committed to meeting our obligations under the relevant laws and regulations pertaining to younger viewers globally, including the Children’s Television Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA); voluntary standards such as those from the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), the Motion Picture Association, and the Entertainment Software Rating Board in the U.S.; along with other global data protection and advertising laws and self-regulatory principles, including the UK’s Age Appropriate Design Code.

Paramount’s dedicated Standards and Practices department closely reviews much of our content to ensure that it is in alignment with the relevant regulatory and self-regulatory bodies. In addition, Nickelodeon reviews much of our content to ensure its fit within brand integrity, cultural sensitivities, social mores, and the TV Parental Guidelines system. Our systems are designed to protect the privacy of our audiences, as well as to ensure the appropriateness of content accessed through our online platforms.

Learn more in in Paramount's 2021-2022 Environmental, Social, and Governance Report