Growing rate of infection prompts recommendations to be modified

Trade bodies have begun updating Covid-19 guidelines amid fears over safe-working conditions due to soaring rates of coronavirus.

TV and film production is exempt from the seven-week English lockdown but the worsening nationwide situation has led the British Film Commission (BFC) to modify its guidance regarding high-end TV and film, while broadcasting union Bectu is also planning additional recommendations.

Meanwhile, the pan-industry guidelines have been updated regularly since they were published this summer, with a sixth version expected to emerge next week. The primary changes are anticipated to cover the use of face masks and protection of the clinically-vulnerable.

The changes come as the coronavirus situation worsens, with around one-in-50 said to have the virus in England, rising to one-in-30 in London.

ITV has already delayed this month’s Britain’s Got Talent record due to the need to “safeguard the wellbeing of everyone involved in our programmes”.

Bectu head Philippa Childs said other productions have been postponed and urged indies to take advantage of the government’s furlough scheme if this is the case.

“It is incumbent on productions to follow guidelines and ensure that extra facilities are in place to enhance crew safety,” she added.

The BFC’s updates, issued earlier this week, focus on ‘clinically extremely vulnerable individuals’ and production staff who live with such people.

Support should be in place for mental health and wellbeing focusing on vulnerable people and a discussion should be made on the safest roles for them to have.

Before confirming a location, producers should also check that the owners are not vulnerable or experiencing Covid-19 symptoms.

Several industry figures told Broadcast it is becoming harder to find locations and contributors due to rising rates of the virus, while freelancers are facing a dilemma over whether to accept work or safeguard their health by staying at home.

Directors UK chair Steve Smith stressed the negative impact of the current situation on freelancers’ mental health, and queried whether indies will be able to make high-quality content over the next seven weeks considering all the wider restrictions.

“It’s an anxious time for freelancers who are facing a dilemma over whether to carry on working, particularly as many are not receiving financial assistance from the government,” he added.

“At a time when the industry is talking about looking after mental health, this doesn’t really help.”

Smith is about to start work on the latest run of The Graham Norton Show in the capital, which has a crew of around 60 people. By the law of averages, he pointed out this means two would have Covid-19.

Directors UK issued its Working Under Covid guide late last year for factual directors.