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Coronavirus: BBC and ITV revamp broadcast plans amid outbreak

The broadcaster will also offer more about education, fitness, religion and recipes for those stuck at home.

A dedicated coronavirus podcast will be released daily, and the BBC’s local radio stations will provide support to communities around the country.

ITV will also broadcast news specials and suspend some planned entertainment shows including The Voice UK.

Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway will go ahead this weekend, but without a live audience for the first time.

‘Uniquely challenging times’
There will be “further developments and challenges ahead – such as filling the gaps left by the suspension of sporting events”, ITV director of television Kevin Lygo said.

“We are already seeing new ideas coming through which might provide innovative new ways of producing TV in these uniquely challenging times.”

BBC director general Tony Hall said: “We all know these are challenging times for each and every one of us. As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a special role to play at this time of national need.

“We need to pull together to get through this. That’s why the BBC will be using all of its resources – channels, stations and output – to help keep the nation informed, educated and entertained.”

The BBC’s programming changes include:

  • A weekly prime-time coronavirus special will be broadcast on Wednesdays on BBC One
  • There will be a daily edition of the coronavirus podcast, filmed where possible for the BBC News Channel
  • Radio 5 Live will host regular phone-ins, during which listeners can ask questions and seek advice
  • The One Show will be used as a consumer programme for all aspects of the crisis, including health and wellbeing advice
  • A daytime programme on BBC One – Health Check UK Live – will directly address the concerns of viewers who are in isolation
  • There will be a focus on news, listener phone-ins and expert advice for communities across morning programmes on BBC local radio stations
  • Every local radio station will also join up with local volunteer groups to help co-ordinate support for the elderly, housebound or at-risk
  • Educational programming for school children will be increased across iPlayer and the red button, with a daily educational programme for different key stages or year groups. BBC Bitesize will also be expanded
  • A virtual church service on Sunday mornings will be launched across local radio in England, led initially by the Archbishop of Canterbury, while the corporation aims to explore ways to reflect other religions, including in the run-up to Ramadan
  • Newsround bulletins for children will remain on air throughout the day on CBBC, and there will be a new iPlayer experience for children
  • The BBC’s online output will continue to supply clear information, including public announcements, health advice and recipes, including for low-income households
  • Major news programmes including BBC Breakfast, and the News at One, Six and Ten will be maintained as much as possible
  • Several shows will return to iPlayer. Box sets that will become available again shortly include Spooks, The Missing, Waking the Dead, French and Saunders, Wallander and The Honourable Woman.
  • Classic radio programmes will also return to BBC Sounds, while programmes which were previously only available as podcasts will be broadcast on the main radio stations.
  • Radio 4 will re-broadcast classic editions of comedy programmes including Just A Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, as well as dramas and readings such as the Bronte Sisters’ novels.

Lord Hall added: “It will take time to emerge from the challenges we all face, but the BBC will be there for the public all the way through this. Clearly there will be disruption to our output along the way, but we will do our very best.”

Also on Wednesday, BBC soaps and continuing dramas including EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City and Doctors put their production schedules on hold.

The Voice silenced
ITV also announced changes to its schedules, including a new weekly Monday night show – Coronavirus Report – which will be produced by ITV News and “give viewers an in-depth insight into issues affecting them during the current crisis”.

The live semi-final and final of The Voice UK have been postponed until later in the year. The knockouts, which are pre-recorded, will continue to be broadcast this weekend as planned.

The Britain’s Got Talent audition shows are still due to be broadcast in the next few weeks as planned, and ITV said it was looking at logistical options for the live finals.

ITV has already confirmed its soaps Emmerdale and Coronation Street will continue, but with reduced filming schedules and only three episodes of Corrie per week.

Earlier this week, the BBC also announced a number of changes to its news output in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Programmes including Politics Live and Victoria Derbyshire have been temporarily suspended, allowing the BBC News Channel to focus on “core news”.

Question Time, which sees political figures and commentators take questions from the public, will move to a prime time 20:00 slot on BBC One. However, it will proceed without a studio audience for the time being.

The practicalities of putting questions to the panel during this period is “still being worked on”, BBC media editor Amol Rajan said.

Newsnight on BBC Two and The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One will remain on air but will be operated by fewer technical staff; while The Andrew Neil Show, Newswatch and the News Channel’s The Travel Show will be suspended. Hardtalk will also be suspended from next week.

Radio news will see fewer changes initially, although news summaries on Radios 2, 3, 4 and 5 Live will be combined into a single output from Friday.

The Americast, Beyond Today and The Next Episode podcasts will be suspended, while Newscast will become the BBC Coronavirus podcast for the foreseeable future. BBC

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