European & Asian networks adapt amid Coronavirus pandemic

Tony Hall

Broadcasters and streamers around the world have unveiled a raft of changes to their regular programming as they adapt to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and offer new content to viewers who may be unable to leave their homes.

BBC’s ‘special role’

In the UK, BBC director general Tony Hall said that the national broadcaster has “a special role to play at this time of national need.”

The BBC has pledged to “do everything [it] can” to maintain its four regular news broadcasts on BBC One, alongside a weekly Coronavirus special every Wednesday on the same channel. The pubcaster will also record a daily edition of its Coronavirus podcast and film it where possible for news channel use in the UK and abroad.

The pubcaster also plans to run a ‘Culture In Quarantine’ service, to help “keep the arts alive in people’s homes” across TV, radio and digital platforms.

Under the umbrella Make A Difference, every local BBC radio station will partner with volunteer groups to help co-ordinate support for the elderly, housebound or at risk, making sure people know what help is available in their area.

Magazine series The One Show will become a consumer programme show for all aspects of the crisis, including health and well-being advice, tips on how to keep fit and eat healthy, as well as links to other BBC output that can help and support.

With schools closed, the BBC also hopes to offer an educational programme for different key stages or year groups with a complementary self-learning programme for students to follow.

It will also bring back many favourite show both on channels and its on-demand iPlayer service and launch a new streaming “experience” for children, offering both entertainment and educational content.

“We need to pull together to get through this,” said Hall. “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. We are making a series of changes to our output to achieve that.”

ITV tries to keep live shows going

Carolyn McCall

Carolyn McCall, CEO of the UK’s ITV, said that the network is also working hard to ensure its shows remain on air and added that it “remains committed to doing everything we can to continue to provide news, drama, entertainment and factual programmes to our viewers to keep them informed about this crisis and to offer them an escape from it.”

ITV is launching a new weekly Monday night show, Coronavirus Report, which has been commissioned to give viewers an in-depth insight into the issues that may affect them during the crisis.

ITV’s director of TV, Kevin Lygo, acknowledged that with the spread of Covid-19 increasing “our ability to produce shows is being affected and shows will no longer be recorded with studio audiences.”

Talent show The Voice’s semi-final and final, which were due to air on the 28 March and 4 April, respectively, have been postponed and will be replaced by some “bespoke Voice specials,” while Lygo said ITV was working with production staff to see how they could still make their Britain’s Got Talent live shows work.

Long-running soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale are filming with fewer cast and crew and location shooting has been scaled back, while Lygo said that further challenges included filling schedule gaps left by sporting events.

Japan’s NHK battles misinformation

Japan’s national broadcaster NHK, meanwhile, has redesigned its services so that they can be used by as many people as possible on an anytime-and-anywhere basis.

These services include the domestic video-streaming service NHK Plus, which began trial operation this month and will go into full operation on 1 April. Catchup playlists on NHK Plus include programs offering the latest information on the coronavirus and programs that answer coronavirus-related questions from viewers.

With schools closed, the NHK Educational TV channel is using diverse platforms, including subchannels (special channels created using frequencies that are not being used for other purposes) and websites, to deliver a wide range of programs for children.

NHK is also striving to minimize public anxiety about the coronavirus by preventing an “infodemic”. The broadcaster has a team monitoring “reliable information from medical and research institutions around the world” for use in news programs, science programs, and specials, with the flagship NHK Special documentary slot carrying programs on the latest coronavirus-related research findings, medical challenges, and social issues.

NHK will produce English versions for NHK World-Japan and other broadcasters around the world

France’s Canal+ goes free

French pay TV service Canal+ is to make its service free while the country is in lockdown. Premium channels will be available through a set-top box, while subscribers will gain access to all channels.

Maxime Saada, the chairman and CEO of Canal+ Group, announced the move earlier this week. “Canal+ goes free for everyone on all set-top boxes. And for our subscribers, we are opening up the access to all our channels, Cinema, Series, Youth and Documentaries. Take care of yourselves,” he tweeted.

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