March 2020 was a month like no other in television. Concern that staff might become infected by Covid-19 brought rapid changes as broadcasters cancelled filming on some of their biggest shows. For what is believed to be the first time in more than half a century, even the set of Coronation Street went dark.
The UK is being tested as never before in peacetime – and in an age when communication is immediate and uncontrollable and diffuse. But, if the nation does come together and get through the challenges of Covid-19, it will have done so with the help of the most traditional forms of public service broadcasting (PSB).
Snakes chewing through camera cables, raging bush fires and thunderstorms knocking out feeds. It seems the challenges of filming a TV show in the jungle are as tricky as any Bushtucker Trial.
Sourcing 450,000 cockroaches and convincing celebrities that there really won’t be any secret pizza deliveries are some of the tasks undertaken by the producers of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
These are strange times to be a sports reporter. All national and international fixtures and events have been cancelled. The Premier League, Euro 2020, the Masters, French Open, Grand National, Olympics, London Marathon and Wimbledon are among the events that have been affected.
Peter Bowker doesn’t “do diversity”. Yet, over the past couple of decades, this RTS and Bafta award-winning screenwriter has become TV’s “go-to guy” for dramas featuring people with disabilities.
A comic and compelling double act, of Bowker and his long-time collaborator the actor Christopher Eccleston, entertained the RTS North West’s capacity audience at the Lowry in March. They traced the development of Bowker’s work as he has, increasingly, challenged stereotypical representations of people affected by learning disabilities.
When Disney announced that its eagerly awaited streaming service, Disney+, would launch in the UK and Western Europe in March no one knew that the service’s debut would coincide with a global pandemic keeping millions of people at home.
“With much of the UK looking for entertainment while they are stuck at home, Disney+ is likely to be a big hit,” said Shiv Pabari, director of media and entertainment at Simon-Kucher & Partners. “Families, in particular, will be excited by the content offered.”
Children are the canaries in the mine, picking things up first,” observed Greg Childs, director of the Children’s Media Foundation, as he introduced an RTS debate on how children’s TV and content movers and shakers are adapting to the fact that young people have migrated online.
An optimistic tone was established from the start by Alice Webb, the outgoing head of BBC Children’s and Education, who asserted: “Yes, the kids are absolutely fine. They have more choice than they ever had. They are exercising choice and are after things that interest them.
When he’s not in the jungle penning quips for Ant and Dec, Andy Milligan is the co-writer of Man Like Mobeen and has a running joke with the sitcom’s creator and star, Guz Khan. As they work on the hit BBC Three series together, Milligan asks him, “Can you tell me what every Muslim in Britain will think of this joke?”
This is because Khan has been dubbed “the face of British Muslims” – a result, Milligan points out, of it being far more likely for a bearded, practising Muslim to appear on our screens as a suicide bomber than as a character like Mobeen.
When George Osborne first uttered the phrase “Northern Powerhouse” back in 2014, it’s fair to say that the TV industry wasn’t at the front of his mind. But, six years on, is it time to start thinking of it as such?
Back then, the mood in the TV industry across the North of England was very different. Both Leeds and Manchester were still struggling with the impact of ITV’s retrenchment to London, while the BBC’s project as the anchor tenant of MediaCity UK was barely into its stride.