The UK’s BBC and ITV, Sky Deutschland and HRT Croatia are among those broadcasters making scheduling changes and adapting programming to ensure audiences are educated and informed with accurate information as the world shuts down.
Covid-19 is reshaping content consumption. From news to entertainment, the demand from consumers is higher than ever before with the public requiring up-to-date and factual news broadcasts and escapism entertainment choices.
In turn, broadcasters have been adapting their schedules to maintain high-quality content to entertain and inform the public, and to ensure accurate and high-quality news is delivered in a timely way.
To support this, telecoms providers are working to ensure resilience across landline, broadband and mobile services as the demands on networks increase, as well as prioritising access to safety-of-life communications systems.
The economic disruption and social isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic are affecting film and TV production scheduling, initiating a loss in the billions for sports broadcasters, all while streaming spikes.
- Read more: BT Sport and Sky face £1bn loss from cancelled sports during Covid-19
- Read more: Analysis: Covid-19 impacts studio production schedules
UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom confirmed it is taking “a pragmatic approach to enforcement during this time” and acknowledged the “vital role of our industries.”
It said investment in fibre and 5G connections remain of critical importance as well as its planned review of the future of public service broadcasting, as does the regulation of video-sharing platforms.
Undoubtedly the role broadcasters play in society is more vital than ever, and whilst organisations including Facebook, the European Broadcasting Union and the BBC are taking measures to prevent the spread of misinformation, broadcasters around the globe are uniting in a movement to broadcast for the better.
Feel good content
Earlier this month BBC News announced its initial plans to service its audiences throughout the coronavirus crisis, with its TV, radio, digital and podcast channels set to see “visible changes” to output.
The BBC confirmed it is shifting its broadcasting focus on to the latest news, information and live events over the coming weeks.
The announcement came as two of its flagship news programmes said they are reducing its technical staff during the pandemic.
Both The Andrew Marr Show and Newsnight will operate with less technical staff, while The Andrew Neil Show, Newswatch, The Travel Show and HARDtalk have been suspended.
In a statement, director of news, Fran Unsworth said: “These are unprecedented and difficult days. Trusted, accurate information is vital in a public health emergency and the BBC has a key role to play. We will continue offering our audience a continuous news service on TV, radio and online but this will look a bit different in the weeks ahead.
“Like many organisations we are unable to have all our staff on site due to the Coronavirus outbreak. We are therefore making some changes to what we do to streamline our output to ensure we can work with fewer people and protect the staff who are at work.”
The BBC also unveiled a children’s iPlayer experience for family viewing, bringing together CBBC and CBeebies as well as other suitable BBC programming in one place on connected TVs.
BBC Children’s and Education director Alice Webb said: “Keeping children informed, educated and entertained at home during these unprecedented times is going to be even more important than ever.”
Campaigning amid a crisis
Fellow UK broadcaster ITV announced its plans to cut its programming budget by at least £100 million as it aims to manage the impact of coronavirus on suspended productions.
ITV presenters Ant and Dec relaunched ITV’s Mental Health Campaign in response to the coronavirus outbreak following an episode of their primetime Saturday night show Saturday Night Takeaway.
The duo addressed the importance of socialising, talking to others and urged viewers to “share a message with the nation” using the hashtag #BritainGetTalking.
In a blog post, ITV News acting editor Rachel Corp said: “We are used to adapting how we work to keep everyone involved safe.” However the impact of “coronavirus is totally different.”
With many ITV News viewers and users asking why the team are continuing to leave their homes to make and broadcast television programmes and digital content, the company took the time to explain its reasoning. ITV Corp said: “More than ever, people are turning to trusted, reliable news to help navigate the rapidly developing situation and work out how it affects them, their families, their health, their work, their lives. You are watching us in record numbers on TV and online and we appreciate the responsibility we have.
“ITV is a public service broadcaster which means delivering programmes for the benefit of the public and ITV News has an obligation to bring you trusted and impartial news. At a time like this, getting you the most up to date and reliable information you need is vital, so you are in the picture and know what is going on.”
Serving sports despite suspended matches
Earlier this month German pay-TV operator Sky Deutschland confirmed it would broadcast its Bundesliga live highlights sessions free to air on Sky Sport News HD on the last two weekends in March.
Sky Deutschland chief executive Devesh Raj said: “In challenging times we all have to stand together. We at Sky firmly believe in the power of sports to unite people – even when they are separated.
“For us it is natural to do our part by sharing these games with everyone so that as many football fans as possible can experience the Bundesliga live.”
The broadcaster’s decisions came after German football association DFL said it would schedule many of the games of the first and second division Bundesliga without a stadium audience to slow down the spreading of the coronavirus.
The DFL remain in ongoing discussions with its domestic broadcast rights-holders as it seeks to reach a consensus with pay-television broadcaster Sky over the final instalment of this season’s media rights payments.
Under the current domestic rights contracts, from 2017-18 to 2020-21, Sky broadcasts 266 exclusive live Bundesliga matches and all 306 matches from the second-tier Bundesliga matches per season.
However, Sky reportedly would not have to pay the DFL is there is no content because of the cancelled matches impacted from the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile in France, a disoute between pay-TV broadcaster Canal+ and the French Professional League (LFP) is underway over the domestic media rights payments, with Canal+ refusing to pay an upcoming €110 million instalment due to the suspension of fixtures.
Last week, four major Bundesliga clubs including Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen, pledged to provide €20 million to support clubs in the top tier and the second-tier two Bundesliga amid the outbreak.
On air education and entertainment
Following global school closures, the education system in Croatia has had to shift to a virtual learning model with public broadcaster Hrvatska Radiotelevizija (HRT) providing a variety of lessons on air through an initiative called School on the Third.
The service - which started earlier this month and is transmitted on HRT 3 - has been accessed by school children across the nation with students able to submit questions via email or social media in readiness for tests and exams.