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British broadcasters 'drawing up' action plans for coronavirus crisis as major shows like Celebrity Race Across the World face cut

Popular shows are under threat of axe or delay

Race Across the World
Channel 4
Published: Friday, 6th March 2020 at 5:56 pm

The impact of coronavirus on our daily lives and the economy has been palpable, but its affect on Britain's TV programming schedules could also be profound.


BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are seriously reconsidering the impact of COVID-19 on their in-house and independent producers and are deciding whether or not to cancel or postpone certain shows, according to Deadline.

These television and broadcasting corporations are meticulously monitoring advice from Public Health England and the World Health Organisation or WHO, as the virus has now globally infected 92,000 people and has claimed the lives of 3,000, as of 6th March.

What action is the BBC taking on coronavirus?

The BBC is currently reviewing programmes scheduled to begin filming and is reassessing productions that involve international filming, large crowds or live audiences.

A celebrity edition of the popular BBC programme Race Across the World, which is about to begin production and involves stars travelling thousands of miles across different countries, could mean entering coronavirus danger zones. (This is not to be confused with the second series of the original show, which has concluded production and will air on BBC Two later this month.

BBC Two Race Across The World

Although there are no pressing concerns for the moment, the risk may impact programmes such as one of the broadcaster’s flagship and long-standing Antiques Roadshow, as it is filmed with huge crowds of people.

A producer has stated to the publication that whilst self-isolation is crucial, television encompasses a global outlook, it "is about going out into the world and mingling with people or bringing audiences to studios".

The impact of the virus could also disrupt major Euro sporting events, including the Olympics and Paralympics, which is why, according to a source, the BBC is verifying its insurance arrangements on its TV rights deals with these events, as well as for the Eurovision Song Contest, Glastonbury and Wimbledon.

What action is ITV taking on coronavirus?

ITV’s CEO, Carolyn McCall has declared that the corporation is "working through our contingency plan by program genre," while ITV Studios staff are receiving relevant guidance and are obligated to follow guidelines, including signing off from managers on certain travel requests.

While all broadcasters are reconsidering programmes with live studio audience formats, producers are currently contemplating ways to vet audiences, seeing as it was announced that a worker on-site at Maidstone Studios – home to shows such as ITV’s Catchphrase – was diagnosed with coronavirus this week. However, the worker was an employee of an NHS Trust at Maidstone business park, rather than a TV crew member.

Catchphrase host Stephen Mulhern (ITV)

ITV, in any case, is still keeping "an eye on Euro 2020", as any cancellation would result in loss of advertising revenue, thus creating an extreme deficit. The broadcaster, alongside BBC, have already had to resort to adapting their coverage of the Six Nations Rugby, with matches being postponed.

The situation is also being monitored by ITV's soaps, Coronation Street and Emmerdale, as they insist they are putting safety first.

What action are Channel 4 and Channel 5 taking on coronavirus?

Channel 4 has reportedly created an "at-risk productions" list – programmes that involve overseas filming, such as First Dates Hotel, as well as UK hospital shows, such as one of its flagship shows, 24 Hours in A&E. In fact, an individual said that hospitals may lock down in order to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.


Channel 5 has also reportedly taken similar measures in terms of certain kinds of productions that could involve a risk to TV crew health and so, a watching brief is being maintained, however there are no existing plans of any show cancellations. The channel’s owner, Viacom International Studios could potentially implement group travel restrictions to their producers.


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