BBC, ITV to Support U.K. Indie Production Sector Hit by Virus Pandemic

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BBC Broadcasting House in London

The U.K. TV giants have unveiled measures to help companies struggling with production shutdowns.

British public broadcaster BBC and commercial network ITV on Monday unveiled measures aimed at assisting the U.K. independent production sector suffering from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

“This is an unprecedented event, which is causing massive disruption in the market, for broadcasters, production companies, talent and freelancers," said BBC group commercial director Bal Samra. "It’s at times like these that the creative industries need to pull together — to make sure the sector we return to at the end of the pandemic is as rich and vibrant as the one we have now."

The BBC said its five-point plan will "provide investment in purposeful activity and enable production companies to continue a pipeline of quality ideas and programs, in both the short and long term."

The package includes a company-centric approach to productions hit by the virus crisis and finding such solutions as flexibility around delivery and varying cash flow as appropriate. Also planned is the doubling of the BBC's ring-fenced small indie fund to 2 million pounds ($2.5 million), enabling the public broadcaster to work with a wider array of companies and focus particularly on the smallest producers. 

Meanwhile, ITV unveiled a £500,000 ($615,000) development fund for the the indie TV sector designed to accelerate the search for new ideas and content for the channel to air in the later part of 2020 and in 2021. 

"ITV's success is based on the ideas that are brought to us by indies from across the U.K. and we don't want that to stop," said ITV's director of television Kevin Lygo. "We have this money specifically available to ramp up development over the next few months so we can hit the ground running when current restrictions are lifted."

The BBC has already donated 700,000 pounds ($860,000) — most coming from its BBC Studios commercial arm — to The Film and TV Charity to assist U.K. freelancers impacted by the production hiatus. Last week, it was also among the signatories of a letter to the British government calling for assistance to film and TV professionals who fell through the gaps of existing coronavirus financial support schemes.