U.K. broadcasters BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky, STV and ITN, along with the Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services, and producers’ body Pact have developed new guidance for producing television safely when cast and crew need to work more closely than two meters apart.
A five-page document that adds to the guidance published in May calls for the establishment of “close contact cohorts” and weekly testing for this group. A “cohort” is defined as a small number of people who “unavoidably need to be in close contact with each other.” This can include both cast and crew. “The screening regime proposed will decrease the likelihood that someone with the virus will be within the cohort,” the document states. “This approach offers a reasonable and sensible level of risk mitigation but it cannot eliminate risk.”
“This mitigation process is different from the concept of creating a COVID-free ‘bubble,’ which this guidance does not specifically address,” the document adds. “The bubble relies upon more stringent testing and quarantine to be applied prior to entering the very controlled bubble environment. The bubble approach would only be appropriate where the risk of COVID needs to be controlled to an exceptionally low level due to significant vulnerabilities of others within the bubble or other commercial reasons that could impact production delivery significantly.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “Getting TV production back up and running safely is our priority. The BBC has already produced popular shows during lockdown following social distancing – from ‘Have I Got News For You’ to ‘Talking Heads.’ But, if we are to get back to producing the range and quality of programs that the public love which reflect real life interactions, we are going to need to film scenes and shows where people are closer than two metres apart.”
“There will be increased screening for these groups, alongside daily symptom checks and close contact periods would be restricted on set. Close contact groups will be asked to follow social distancing rules during the time between an antigen test and their arrival on set, as well as observing social distancing in their daily life during the filming period. We will keep this advice under review if the situation changes.”
The document is complementary to British Film Commission guidance on managing the risks associated with film and high-end TV drama production.