UK takes ‘significant step’ as Covid-19 production blueprint unveiled

Peaky Blinders

The UK’s major broadcasters including the BBC, ITV and Sky have unveiled new industry-wide guidelines for producing TV, as the business attempts to work around Covid-19 restrictions.

Channel 4, Channel 5, Scotland’s STV, news and factual producer ITN, the Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services (COBA) and producer body Pact have also joined the industry-wide initiative to introduce the blueprint, which outlines how companies can resume filming safely.

Working with partners across the industry… we have created clear guidelines to give producers a framework within which they can ensure that their production is safe

Carolyn McCall, ITV CEO

The 15-page document, available here, is designed to cover all TV programme making across every genre and will sit alongside the forthcoming British Film Commission guidance on managing the risks associated with film and high-end TV drama production.

The companies said the blueprint had taken note of the UK government advice on the safe return to work, and would evolve if and when the country’s lockdown is eased. Huge swathes of the UK production industry have been in hiatus since the pandemic struck in March, causing delays for hit shows such as the BBC’s Peaky Blinders and Line Of Duty.

Six key areas have been identified, including:

● Specifically consider people at higher risk of harm
● Heighten precautions for everyone at work
● Reduce the number of people involved
● Consider editorial ‘on camera’ requirements
● Consider mental health and wellbeing
● Feedback loop

The guidance also lays out the key areas to consider when assessing risk on productions and suggests controls to consider:

● Travel: Try to minimise travel and follow social distancing principles within travel arrangements, wherever possible.
● Location: Consider the physical capacity of the space given the requirements of social distancing along with the provision of key hygiene facilities.
● Work Activities: Consider 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: Work equipment is key to TV production from cameras and headsets to edit suites. Good hygiene and managing potential issues with touchpoints should be addressed.
● Work Patterns: Work patterns may enable you to have small groups (cohorts) of people who don’t come into contact with other groups.
● Rest Areas: Rest areas are very important but may need some reconfiguration and planning around breaks to ensure rest areas are as safe as possible.
● First Aid and Emergency services: Emergency services are under great pressure so may not be able to respond as quickly as possible alongside this Coronavirus (Covid-19) poses a potential risk to first aiders.
● Masks, Gloves and Other Personal Protective Equipment: Use of PPE is very much a last resort and should only be considered when all other forms of control have been considered and/or implemented. It would not in general be appropriate to source medical grade PPE. The very limited exceptions to this might be when filming in higher Covid-19 risk settings such as hospitals, which would only be at the invitation of the relevant hospital authorities.
● Mental Health: The Covid-19 risk and the response has had a potential mental health impact for those working on productions.

The guidance has been produced with external expertise, including medical experts such as Dr Paul Litchfield, entertainment industry safety consultants First Option, union representatives and the UK’s Health and Safety Executive.

Oliver Dowden, the UK’s culture secretary at the Department Of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), said he was “keen to get cameras rolling as soon as it is safe” and described the guidelines as “a significant step forward in getting our favourite shows back into production.”

Tony Hall

BBC chief Tony Hall said the advice would remain “under review” while ITV CEO Carolyn McCall added that the “clear guidelines” would give producers “a framework within which they can ensure that their production is safe.”

Alex Mahon, Chief Executive, 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 – 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 at Sky Studios, said his pay TV outfit would “continue to work closely with our international partners, share best-practice and continuously review and evolve the guidelines as we return to production” while ViacomCBS director of programmes Ben Frow added that the guidelines “will help pave the way to getting our sector safely back up and running, as we begin to navigate a ‘new normal’.”


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