TV's legal eagles battle coronavirus to keep productions going

TV's legal eagles battle coronavirus to keep productions going

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TV legal teams have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, keeping production teams on set and shows on air. 

When the UK first went into lockdown in March 2020, Fremantle lawyer Damian Kent told an RTS London event, “productions had to be suspended or stood down generally, so that meant looking at cast, crew and suppliers’ contracts. It meant going to broadcasters and producers, and agreeing what payments needed to be made.... It was an additional cost on the budget.”

Katrien Roos, TV, film and theatre associate at law firm Harbottle & Lewis, recalled: “We were seeing producers grappling with new ways of working in compliance with enhanced health and safety measures that had to be put in place.... [They] were working with smaller crews and fewer extras.” 

But the pandemic also brought opportunities. At All3Media’s distribution arm, formats specialist Nick Smith was dealing with broadcasters worldwide: “Massive holes appeared in their schedules.... There was a market for sales of ready- made programmes or for- mats that could be made during the pandemic.”

Olusoga Adamo, head of business affairs at ITV Studios, added: “We had to look at our chest of content... [and] make sure that the necessary rights were either there or were subsequently acquired before broadcast took place.”

Producers, though, were able to shoot some formats. Gogglebox was kept on air by moving production crews out of homes and into vehicles parked outside. “It’s about being adaptable and creative to make things work during this tough time,” said Smith. 

The RTS London session, "Law and ordered: How legal and commercial teams have responded to Covid-19”, was held on 27 January, chaired by ex-Disney lawyer Nana Duodu and produced by Lettija Lee.