UK broadcasters introduce industry-wide guidelines for producing during COVID-19

ITV, BBC, Sky, Channel 4, Channel 5, STV, ITN and Pact collaborated on the guidelines, which encompass all genres.
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A collection of UK broadcasters and broadcast associations has published a set of guidelines designed to offer guidance for returning to active production in the weeks and months ahead, as the globe continues to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic.

ITV, BBC, Sky, Channel 4, Channel 5, STV, ITN, the Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services (COBA) and production trade organization Pact have collaborated on the guidelines, which encompass all genres and are meant to correspond with forthcoming British Film Commission guidance on managing the risks associated with film and high-end TV drama production.

Broadcasters worked in consultation with Dr. Paul Litchfield CBE and First Option, safety consultants to the media and entertainment industry, to create the guidance, and liaised with union representatives and the UK’s Health and Safety Executive.

The approach outlines six areas that producers and commissioning broadcasters must consider when planning to produce during the COVID-19 pandemic. They include: specifically considering people at higher risk of harm; heightening precautions for everyone at work; reducing the number of people involved; considering editorial ‘on camera’ requirements; considering mental health and wellbeing; and establishing a feedback loop.

In addition, the guidance delves into key areas for producers and broadcasters to consider when assessing risk of producing. They include: travel, with the recommendation to “try to minimize travel and follow social distancing principles within travel arrangements, wherever possible”; location, with the call to “consider the physical capacity of the space given the requirements of social distancing along with the provision of key hygiene facilities”; work activities, with an eye towards considering “the activities that people are going to need to undertake across roles on production and if these can be adapted or changed to reduce risk”; work equipment, covering a comprehensive assessment of all gear and ensuring that “good hygiene and managing potential issues with touchpoints should be addressed; work patterns that may “enable you to have small groups (cohorts) of people who don’t come into contact with other groups; rest areas: Rest areas, and consideration of what “may need some reconfiguration and planning around breaks to ensure rest areas are as safe as possible”; first aid and emergency services and availability thereof; masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment or PPE, considered by the consortium to be “very much a last resort and should only be considered when all other forms of control have been considered and/or implemented”; and the impact that the pandemic and response to it has been to the mental health of those in the industry.

The guidance will be updated as the situation evolves over time. The document can be accessed here.

“Everyone across the TV industry wants to get production back up and running,” said current BBC director-general Tony Hall in a statement accompanying the guidance. “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 programs and we will all put that into practice.”

Alex Mahon, chief executive at Channel 4, said: “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,” while ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall offered: “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 programs 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.”

“This guidance from all the major commissioning broadcasters in the UK is a very helpful first step to getting the industry back working and taking forward the recovery,” added John McVay, CEO of Pact.

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