Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s Director, Content, has confirmed that the Corporation plans to resume filming on two of its most popular shows, soap opera EastEnders and motoring magazine Top Gear.
Writing in UK daily The Telegraph, Moore noted that as the Coronavirus struck, the UK’s film and television industry was the fastest growing part of the British economy, but that since then, TV production had been forced to an abrupt halt.
“We have cut back on broadcasts of EastEnders while new episodes could not be made, just as ITV has done with Coronation Street, she advised. “As the UK takes its first tentative steps to ease the lockdown the question is: What can we do to kick-start the TV industry and support our brilliant production sector nationwide,” she said.
“At the BBC, we’re determined to do everything we can. We’ve been looking very carefully at how we can safely put some of our shows back into production, and I’m pleased to announce that we plan to begin filming again on both EastEnders and Top Gear by the end of next month. We’re also exploring ways to re-start filming on more dramas and other major BBC shows as soon as possible,” she revealed, describing this as “great news for viewers”, but also essential for the success of the many independent companies around the country who make these programmes and who have felt the economic shockwaves of the pandemic.
She confirmed that the BBC would be working within government guidelines. Crews will be strictly limited. Cast members will do their own hair and make-up. Social distancing measures will be in place. “The filming now underway on our new productions of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues is showing what’s possible under Covid-19 restrictions,” she suggested. The BBC’s coverage of VE Day and this week’s Hospital specials from the coronavirus front line are examples of how well we can rise to the creative and technical challenge.”
“We want to serve our audiences and help TV production get back on its feet, but the number one priority will remain the safety and well-being of production teams and those who work with them,” she asserted. “That’s why the UK broadcasters and independent producers are working together. We want to work out how we can produce great programmes in the weeks and months ahead. We’ve made a start but we will need to think more about what we can do differently,” she admitted.
“How we make shows will continue to evolve in the months ahead as lockdown restrictions are eased and government advice develops. But we all want the whole industry to safely return to production. Our shared goal is to find new ways of working to help fire up the engines of British TV production – safely and sensibly,” she declared.
She said she was proud of how the whole sector had responded to the Covid-19 crisis, admitting that like others, the BBC had to improvise, experiment and reprioritise to keep services up and running. “We have worked hard to provide audiences with not only the news and information they need, but the comfort and companionship they value.”
She advised that a number of shows had achieved their highest-ever audiences, with dramas such as Normal People and Killing Eve providing must-watch escapism for millions. “The Graham Norton Show, The Ranganation, Have I Got News For You and the Mash Report have all adapted to lockdown to provide much-needed humour and entertainment,” she added. “It’s a reminder not only of the creative excellence of the UK’s television industry, but also of its importance to British audiences. Now is the time to make sure that this remarkable national success story, built on a thriving independent production sector reaching every corner of the UK, can continue through the coronavirus crisis and beyond,” she concluded.