Broadcasters’ move to get the cameras rolling again following rule changes


The nation’s favourite soaps are expected to resume production in the coming weeks, after new industry guidance is published by broadcasters today.

The new guidance sets out steps for a safe return to television production in a significant move towards getting the cameras rolling again on some of the nation’s favourite shows.

Popular programmes like Eastenders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Top Gear are expected to start filming again in the coming weeks.

The guidance, produced in collaboration between broadcasters, industry experts and safety consultants, builds on the government’s publication of its COVID-19 recovery strategy earlier this week. The new production protocol also reflects the latest government advice on the safe return to work.

Although some TV production has continued during lockdown with strict measures being taken to minimise social contact, wider production has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

The government has been working closely with broadcasters and representatives from the wider film and TV industry in recent weeks to understand the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the sector, and has provided a substantial financial package of support, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Self Employment Income Support Scheme, cash grants and loans.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has protected millions of jobs since the beginning of the outbreak, has now also been extended until October to provide further support as people begin to return to work.

The government has also been working closely with broadcasters and representatives from the wider film and TV industry in recent weeks to understand the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the sector.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been in regular contact with the screen sector and will continue to work with the industry as it develops further guidance for film and high-end TV drama production.

Ministers will also work with the industry on the next steps of recovery as part of the Recreation and Leisure task force, one of five new task forces established to plan for a safe return to activity.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said: “Great British television is keeping us company throughout the crisis, and I’m keen to get cameras rolling as soon as it is safe to do so. This is a significant step forward in getting our favourite shows and soaps going again. Our creative industries are Britain’s global calling card, and I want to see them get back to doing what they do best safely.”

Industry reaction

Carolyn McCall, Chief Executive, ITV said: “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.”

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, said: “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.”

Alex Mahon, Chief Executive, Channel 4 said: “I’m phenomenally proud of the role Channel 4, alongside our production partners, has played over the last two months to help navigate audiences, particularly young and hard-to-reach viewers, through the Covid crisis. Unlocking the television production sector in a safe way will be vital to continuing to ensure we can both continue to serve our audiences and help sustain the livelihoods of those in the industry – and I’m pleased that we’ve been able to work in partnership with other broadcasters, DCMS and PACT to create this innovative new framework.”

Gary Davey, CEO Sky Studios, said: “This guidance provides production companies and broadcasters with a shared set of principles to keep staff, cast and crew safe across a range of productions. We will continue to work closely with our international partners, share best-practice and continuously review and evolve the guidelines as we return to production.”

Ben Frow, Director of Programmes, ViacomCBS Networks UK said: “The UK is a global leader in content production and these guidelines will help pave the way to getting our sector safely back up and running, as we begin to navigate a ‘new normal’. Through a consistent and collaborative industry approach, we can work together with suppliers to reframe the parameters of programme-making during this challenging time, putting people’s wellbeing at the heart of the process.”

Simon Pitts, CEO STV said: “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.”

Anna Mallett, CEO, ITN said: “Our teams in ITN have pioneered new ways of working to keep the news on-air and crucially, to keep staff, freelancers and contributors safe during this time. We’ve been able to share our experiences and protocols to help draw up these guidelines for the wider industry. Our documentary team have found ways to ensure safety and creatively maintain production on a number of programmes filmed in contributors’ homes and on location.”