U.K. broadcasters and studios have begun enforcing bans on on-site audiences as the coronavirus outbreak continues apace.
ITV has confirmed that popular variety show “Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway” will go ahead without an audience for the first time in its history. The broadcaster has also done away with audiences for all other studio shows.
A spokesperson confirmed to Variety Tuesday evening: “‘Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway’ will go ahead this weekend without a studio audience. Our priority is safeguarding the well-being of everyone involved.
“The show will be made with a reduced production crew and in accordance with the latest guidance from Public Health England. The team are looking forward to bringing our viewers a brilliant show on Saturday evening.”
The content of this Saturday’s episode will be adapted accordingly, though producers are still working towards producing the entire 90-minute episode live. However, the March 28 episode will be a cut-down 60-minute version of the format.
On Friday, ITV made the decision, after a day of emergency meetings, to go ahead with a studio audience for the March 14 episode of “Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway,” which relies heavily on audience interaction.
One of the commercial broadcaster’s most popular programs, “Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway” is hosted by Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly and shoots at the BBC Television Centre in London. The current 16th season of the show, which debuted in late February, returned to air after a two-year hiatus following McPartlin’s drunk-driving arrest in 2018.
Meanwhile, the BBC also confirmed Tuesday evening that the public broadcaster will forgo audiences for the foreseeable future, at all BBC venues as well as third-party studios.
“In line with government guidance, at this current time we will no longer host audiences for recordings of any BBC programs,” a BBC spokesperson told Variety. “We are recommending that independent producers also follow government advice and adopt a similar approach.”
The BBC said earlier today that it will prevent external visitors and audiences from accessing its buildings from Wednesday onwards.
A BBC spokesperson told Variety: “From Wednesday, it will not be possible for external visitors and audience members to access BBC buildings unless they are essential to our broadcast output.
“All visitor’s tours of BBC premises are also canceled for the foreseeable future. Those who do come to our buildings will still be required to declare themselves fit. We will keep this policy under review and update regularly based on the latest advice.”
The BBC and ITV’s decision to pull audiences for studio shows follows similar precautions takes Stateside last week.
“The Ellen Degeneres Show” is no longer taping with an audience, alongside a number of late night programs, including CBS’ “Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live,” TBS’ “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” and Fox News Channel’s “The Greg Gutfeld Show.”
Meanwhile, at Elstree Studios — where shows such as Netflix’s “The Crown” and Channel 4 comedy show “The Last Leg” are filmed — management has hit pause on both audiences and events, although filming continues, as per other U.K. studios.
Roger Morris, managing director of Elstree Studios, said: “Whilst we are currently taking strict measures to safeguard the people working on site, we are fully aware that an outbreak at the Studios could at any time happen and this could mean that we close and quarantine the areas.
“A number of our clients have closed their offices on site for a number of weeks and we are taking advice daily.”
Netflix is continuing filming on season four of “The Crown” at Elstree, where production has not paused as the shoot is meant to wrap this coming week. Meanwhile, a number of other shows continue to film at the studio.
Elstree is home to a variety of unscripted programs, including “Strictly Come Dancing,” “The Voice,” “The Voice Kids,” “Celebrity Juice,” “A League of Their Own,” “The Chase,” “Pointless,” “Room 101” and “Have I Got News For You?”
The studio’s dedicated events space, meanwhile, is often used for parties such as birthdays and bar mitzvahs as well as wrap parties.
In the U.K., coronavirus has now claimed 55 lives. A total of 1,543 people have tested positive for the virus. The government has yet to issue a gatherings ban or enforce the closure of social venues.