Broadcasters agree guidelines for production during Coronavirus

UK Broadcasters join forces to introduce new industry wide guidance for producing television safely during Covid-19.

Salford Quays is home to the BBC and ITV, where shows such as Breakfast and Coronation Street are created.

Following the news EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale are to shortly resume production today several of the UK’s leading broadcasters along with the Association for Commercial Broadcasters, On-Demand Services (COBA) and Pact have announced industry wide guidelines for producing television safely in the weeks and months ahead.

“Great British television is keeping us company throughout the crisis, and I’m keen to get cameras rolling as soon as it is safe. Our creative industries are Britain’s global calling card and this is a significant step forward in getting our favourite shows back into production.” – Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden

The guidance covers the broad range and scale of all TV programme making in every genre for television and is complementary to the forthcoming British Film Commission guidance on managing the risks associated with movie and drama production.

In the new guidelines, announced jointly by ITV, BBC, Sky, Channel 4, Channel 5, STV and ITN, the number one priority they note remains the safety and well-being of production teams and those who work with them. The guidance has been produced through a collaboration of cross industry experts in this area along with external expertise provided by Dr Paul Litchfield CBE. The broadcasters have also worked with First Option, safety consultants to the media and entertainment industry, to devise this approach as well as liaising with union representatives and the Health and Safety Executive.

The expectation is that the guidance will evolve over the coming months as the lockdown is eased, as government advice evolves and as TV productions adapt to the new challenges posed by the Covid-19 risk and provide a framework the entire industry can work within.

ITV Yorkshire in Leeds is the base for regional news programme Calendar News, soap opera Emmerdale and the ITV Archive.

“Everyone across the TV industry wants to get production back up and running. Recent weeks have shown just how important shows are to the public. But we can only move forward with the right safety measures in place. This guidance is an attempt to get that right. Clearly we will keep it under review. We have, as an industry, already learnt a lot about how we can deliver programmes and we will all put that into practice” – Tony Hall, BBC Director-General

Key highlights from the guidelines include those in the industry minimising their travel and to follow social distancing principles within travel arrangements, wherever possible.

Productions should also consider the physical capacity of any location space given the requirements of social distancing along with the provision of key hygiene facilities while there should also be consideration towards work activities and checks will need to be carried out to see if the working practices need to be adapted or changed to reduce risk.

Work equipment is key to TV production from cameras and headsets to edit suites. Good hygiene and managing potential issues with touchpoints should be addressed and work patterns may enable productions to gather small cohorts of people who don’t come into contact with other groups.

“ITV has been at the heart of informing, entertaining and connecting the UK through the Covid-19 crisis. Our production teams are now working hard to bring many more much loved shows back for viewers. This requires really innovative thinking, but above all, the safety and well-being of all those who work on the programmes is paramount. Working with partners across the industry, and with the support of DCMS, we have created clear guidelines to give producers a framework within which they can ensure that their production is safe.” – Carolyn McCall, Chief Executive, ITV

STV’s Glasgow base, the home of shows such as Scotland Tonight and STV News at Six.

Other key areas addressed by the guidelines are the use of Personal Protective Equipment, the mental health of staff, area zones required to operate during the Coronavirus situation such as rest areas and the use of Emergency Services.

Last week the BBC revealed early plans to resume some production in June on shows including BBC Elstree based soap opera EastEnders and motoring show Top Gear which is based in an Aerodrome in Surrey. The Beeb note their intentions followed an in-depth review of the production process.

After the BBC announcement ITV reportedly began plans to get its serials back into operation starting with Emmerdale, which thanks to its vast outside village set is seen the best to trial social distancing procedures.

UK production halted on the majority of programming in March as part of lockdown measures. Exceptions to closure included national and regional news and factual programming, with all introducing social distancing measures.

“STV’s continued delivery of public service news and current affairs throughout the Coronavirus crisis demonstrates our ability to produce programming safely incorporating stringent new safety measures. Nations and regions producers like STV Productions play a vital role in driving both the UK’s world leading production sector and the local creative economy and – working closely with the Scottish Government – this protocol can provide a vital framework for more of our colleagues, across a broader range of production, to return to work with the same level of confidence about their safety and wellbeing.” – Simon Pitts, CEO STV

BBC Broadcasting House has carried on with its Radio services, BBC One’s The One Show and also national news output.

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