U.K. TV Giants Unveil Guidelines for Restarting Production

ITV
British TV drama 'Isolation Stories' was conceived and shot entirely under lockdown.

"The guidelines are intended to enable a return to production for the television industry," say the BBC, ITV, Sky and others.

U.K. TV giants, including the BBC, ITV, Sky, Channel 4, Viacom's Channel 5 and others, along with the Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services (COBA) and trade association Pact, on Monday jointly introduced new industrywide guidelines for producing television safely in the weeks and months ahead amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"The guidelines are intended to enable a return to production for the television industry," they said in unveiling the guidance, which covers a broad range of TV program making in every genre and "is complementary to the forthcoming British Film Commission guidance on managing the risks associated with film and high-end TV drama production."

The guidance has "taken careful note of the recent government advice" on the safe return to work. "The expectation is that the guidance will evolve over the coming months as the lockdown is eased, as government advice evolves and as TV productions adapt to the new challenges posed by the COVID-19 risk and provide a framework the entire industry can work within," the industry partners said.

In a statement, the companies and organizations emphasized that the "number one priority remains the safety and well-being of production teams and those who work with them." The guidance was put together in collaboration with experts in this area along with external advisers, including safety consultancy First Option, union representatives and the Health and Safety Executive.

The safety document details six areas that producers, in cooperation with commissioning networks, must consider when planning to produce. Those are: 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 well-being; and ensure a feedback loop.

The guidance also covers key areas to consider when assessing risk on productions, such as travel ("try to minimize travel and follow social distancing principles within travel arrangements, wherever possible," the document says); location (consider the physical capacity of the space given the requirements of social distancing along with the provision of key hygiene facilities); work activities; equipment; work patterns (that may "enable you to have small groups of people who don’t come into contact with other groups); rest areas; first aid and emergency services; 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); and mental health.

"Great British television is keeping us company throughout the crisis, and I'm keen to get cameras rolling as soon as it is safe," said U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden. "Our creative industries are Britain's global calling card and this is a significant step forward in getting our favorite shows back into production."

ITV CEO Carolyn McCall said: “ITV has been at the heart of informing, entertaining and connecting the U.K. through the COVID-19 crisis. 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."

Tony Hall, the BBC's director-general, added: "Everyone across the TV industry wants to get production back up and running. 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."

And Gary Davey, CEO of Sky Studios, said: "This guidance provides production companies and broadcasters with a shared set of principles to keep staff, cast and crew safe across a range of productions. We will continue to work closely with our international partners, share best-practice and continuously review and evolve the guidelines as we return to production.”

Concluded John McVay, the CEO of Pact: "This guidance from all the major commissioning broadcasters in the U.K. is a very helpful first step to getting the industry back working and taking forward the recovery."