Carolyn McCall, ITV’s CEO, has provided an overview of ITV’s response to the coronavirus crisis: “This week has seen an escalation in the impact of the coronavirus with the Government ramping up measures and recommendations that are having profound implications for people and organisations across the UK.
“All businesses are being deeply affected and ITV is no exception, but as a Public Service Broadcaster we remain committed to doing everything we can to continue to provide news, drama, entertainment and factual programmes to our viewers to keep them informed about this crisis and to offer them an escape from it.
“The health of our own people and those who work with us remains our priority and we will implement the latest official guidance. I would like to thank everybody for the extra efforts being made in every team across ITV. We are also working closely with our partners in the industry to keep our shows on air.
“Whatever happens, we will continue to broadcast our six channels, which, between them, offer hundreds of hours of content every week for free and accessible to everyone in the UK,” she concluded.
Kevin Lygo, ITV Director of Television, explained ITV’s response in more detail:
News, Daytime and factual
“As a public service broadcaster, ITV has a vitally important role to play in helping to provide the latest information, insight and guidance to viewers, told through trusted presenters and programmes. We’ve already seen significantly increased viewing of our news and live programming which demonstrates the public’s need for fair, accurate and impartial news and information.
“Our News teams across national and regional programmes are continuing to produce the highest quality journalism while our Daytime teams engage with viewers with their trademark flair and personality each day.
“Between them they continue to broadcast around 10 hours of live news and discussion every weekday and provide a platform for the reporting and explaining of the changes to all of our lives that this crisis demands.
“Their flexible and adaptive approach, supported by technology and our contingency plans will allow us to remain on air to provide this highly-valued, live service to viewers. As an illustration, if we couldn’t broadcast News at Ten from London as we normally do we could do so from one of our regional centres.
“Our live Daytime output continues to evolve and contingency plans in place would allow us to air from alternative locations and in more nimble ways – such as guests appearing remotely via other studios or Skype and FaceTime.
“Today we are announcing a new, weekly Monday night show Coronavirus Report, produced by ITV News, that has been newly commissioned to give viewers an in-depth insight into issues affecting them during the current crisis.
“We will continue to explore new ideas that will allow us to react to the world around and reflect that in our schedule in the weeks ahead.
“Across our family of channels, our schedule remains robust, relying as it does on largely pre-recorded programmes – from our afternoon quiz shows like The Chase and Tenable to our evening dramas like Belgravia and Liar – and we are in a position to offer viewers a great deal of new shows in the coming weeks, particularly in peak time.
“Across Drama, Entertainment and Factual Entertainment we have a fantastic mix of new and returning highlights set to air, such as Quiz, Honour, Alan Carr’s Epic Gameshow, Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Road Trip, Harry’s Heroes: Euro having a laugh, Our Queen At War, Absolutely India: Mancs in Mumbai and The Sister.
“However, with the spread of COVID-19 increasing, inevitably our ability to produce shows is being affected and shows will no longer be recorded with studio audiences. For example, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway will air this weekend without a live audience for the first time and we appreciate the huge efforts, across production, our on screen talent and commissioning, that have gone into making that happen.
“The Voice UK knockouts, which are pre-recorded, will continue to be broadcast this weekend and the Britain’s Got Talent audition shows are due to be broadcast in the next few weeks as planned.
“We have, however, taken the difficult decision to postpone until later this year The Voice UK’s live semi final and final, which were due on air on the 28th March and 4th April, and are working to replace them in the schedule with some bespoke Voice specials. We are also working with our production colleagues to see how we can make the BGT live shows work in an ever changing situation and we will update on this in due course.
“It’s clear that the over 70s will be most affected by the new medical advice. ITV already caters really well for this group – many of whom love our soaps and dramas. Most of this age group who rely solely on Free to Air TV aren’t able to access online content services as they rarely have connected TVs. But our reach as a PSB means that all of them can access ITV3, which is the home of much loved dramas like Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War, Agatha Christie’s Marple and Poirot.
“And for our younger viewers, from next week onwards CITV will have a new-look morning schedule. The mornings will be full of much-loved animated series such as The Rubbish World of Dave Spud, Mr Magoo and Tom and Jerry. This will continue into the afternoons which will contain some of CITV’s biggest shows such as Scooby Doo and Thunderbirds Are Go.
“Coronation Street and Emmerdale are Britain’s two most popular soaps with millions following both shows.
“The continued transmission of both soaps is a priority for all of us at ITV and to our audiences who enjoy the shows.
“The latest health advice from the Government and Public Health England is making filming both shows a real challenge – particularly with cast and crew members who are over 70 or have underlying health conditions.
“Through a mix of changes to production and scheduling we are confident that we can keep broadcasting new episodes of both shows over the coming months.
“On the production front we are filming with fewer cast and crew and we’re scaling back location shooting whilst adhering to the Government’s guidelines.
“From a scheduling point of view we will reduce the planned 12 episodes a week to eight episodes a week from Monday 30 March. Emmerdale will air Monday to Friday at 7pm and Coronation Street Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7.30pm.
ITV Hub and BritBox
“ITV Hub provides many more hours of content and after such a strong start to the year our 30 million registered users who may have missed any of our hits so far can go to the Hub to catch up on Liar, Belgravia, Cold Feet, Breaking Dad: Bradley & Son, Good Karma Hospital, Joanna Lumley’s Hidden Carribean, Tyson Fury: The Gypsy King, Vera and more.
“Even beyond that, on BritBox there’s a wealth of the best British shows ever produced. Our 30 day free trial provides access to the biggest collection of British box sets available anywhere and high quality content from BBC, ITV and Channel 5 plus original British comedies from Comedy Central UK. British TV boxsets from All 4 will be featured on the service from April to supplement unique offerings such as over 600 episodes of Doctor Who Classic, all six series and specials of Downton Abbey, all three series of Broadchurch, seven series of Only Fools and Horses and much more.
“There will be further developments and challenges ahead – such as filling the gaps left by the suspension of sporting events – so we will continue to keep viewers fully informed as we progress.
“We are already seeing new ideas coming through which might provide innovative new ways of producing TV in these uniquely challenging times.”
McCall added: “Whatever happens with the amazing support of our people and our partners in the industry we will do everything we can to continue to inform, connect with and entertain millions of viewers.”