The BBC has set out how it will ensure it keeps the nation informed, educated, and entertained in what it describes as unprecedented times.
“We all know these are challenging times for each and every one of us,” stated Director-General Tony Hall. “As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a special role to play at this time of national need.”
“We need to pull together to get through this. 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,” he advised.
“We will continue to deliver all the essential news and information – with special programming and content.”
“We also will do everything from using our airwaves for exercise classes for older people, religious services, recipes and advice on food for older people and low-income families, and should schools close, education programming for different age groups. We will also be launching a whole new iPlayer experience for children. And of course there will be entertainment – with the ambition of giving people some escapism and hopefully the odd smile.”
“Clearly there will be disruption to our output along the way, but we will do our very best. It will take time to emerge from the challenges we all face, but the BBC will be there for the public all the way through this.”
Accordingly, the BBC has announced a wide-ranging package of measures.
“Our core role is to bring trusted news and information to audiences in the UK and around the world in a fast-moving situation, and counter confusion and misinformation,” it says.
The BBC says it will help people in the UK deal with the impact of the crisis on their own lives, by providing advice, education and support.
In the event that schools are shut down, and subject to further work and discussions with the Department for Education, devolved administrations and schools, the BBC is exploring:
The BBC says it will keep people entertained, providing laughter, escapism, companionship, shared experiences and a sense of connection to the outside world.
Initiatives include the following:
Additionally, BBC News has outlined its own initial plans for how it will continue to offer its audiences trusted and accurate news throughout the Coronavirus crisis.
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 plans are as followed:
We will be making some visible changes to our output to focus on the latest news, information, live events and audience questions in the coming days. Breakfast, News At One, News At Six and News At Ten will continue to perform a vital role on BBC One, while we make some changes to support our continuous news channels.
We will be making some visible changes to our output to focus on the latest news, information, live events and audience questions in the coming days.
From tomorrow we will be moving to a core news service on the BBC News channel in the UK – with fewer branded programmes. This core service will replace some scheduled programmes on BBC Two including Politics Live and Victoria Derbyshire. We will be talking to these teams about how they can support the core operation, which will also provide live coverage of major news conferences and government briefings to BBC iPlayer, TV and News online.
There will also be a reduction in branded programmes on BBC World News – and more integrated working across live TV output behind the scenes. Some Persian TV programmes will be suspended.
Newsnight and The Andrew Marr Show will remain on air but will be operated by fewer technical staff; while The Andrew Neil Show, Newswatch and The Travel Show will be suspended. HARDtalk will also be suspended from next week.
Question Time will be broadcast at 8pm every Thursday without a studio audience for a period. From next Thursday it will be broadcast from a fixed location each week. Audiences will submit questions and we are particularly keen to hear from those in vulnerable groups.
We believe we can protect much of our regular, trusted output at this point – though we are keeping the situation under close review and will be making some initial changes.
On World Service English, The World This Week will be suspended from tomorrow, with World Update and Weekend suspended from next week.
In the UK, radio summaries on BBC Radio 2, 3, 4 and 5 live will be brought together into a single output from 1am on Friday, with 6 Music using the same script. There will be shared production and output on Asian Network and Newsbeat from tomorrow. The Week In Westminster on Radio 4 (Saturday mornings) will be suspended after 21 March. We are making some other changes to radio studio usage and working methods to protect our staff.
Over the last few weeks we have seen unprecedented use of our digital news services in the UK and around the world – with high consumption of our live pages, explanatory journalism and in-depth reporting. We will be making some changes to the way our teams are organised to sustain these vital services – and to ensure we can distribute important information via social media.
As a result of this we will be focusing content on the accounts that reach the widest number of people, drawing in effort from across the BBC to support our social media activity, and suspending posts on some smaller accounts over the coming days.
Newscast will change into a daily edition of The Coronavirus Podcast. Americast, Beyond Today and The Next Episode podcasts will be suspended.