Responding to the Coronavirus Crisis

BBC Wales has recently announced a special package of support to assist independent production companies in Wales during the Coronavirus crisis. Here, Nick Andrews summarises the details for independent production companies.

How do we respond?  What are our unique stories here in Wales that speak to this universal experience, this pandemic that’s touching all our lives? And how do we produce this content whilst in lockdown?

COVID19 – Creative response

With immediate effect I’m formerly launching a commissioning round for shows that reflect life as it is during this crisis. You’ve already been sending them in , speaking to the team. We will now take a look at these ideas and make some very quick decisions.

What sort of ideas are we looking for?

  • I’ve already been pitched the privileged access films from inside hospital walls. On the front line with the heroes of the NHS.
  • We commissioned a fast turnaround user generated docu-series charting life in lockdown from across Wales.
  • But there’s room for more. What are the younger generation doing in lockdown? How are they capturing it? What are they talking about? And how are they telling this story? The whole family are in lockdown – we want younger skewing content. What would BBC3 want?
  • And If laughter is the best medicine … make us laugh. What have you got that you can turnaround quickly and safely.
  • As the world around us get smaller. As the living room walls close in. In a world where fear is close and sadness may be just around the corner ; what are those ideas that take us away from it all?
  • If you’ve got an idea, fronted by a well known person speak to us.
  • We need to make sure we remain committed to portraying Wales in all its diversity so do think through what that means for your ideas.

*A note of caution. As an opt off the main network we need to find our place in this world. Your ideas must therefore work for BBC1 – mostly at 1930 and 2240. Take note of what is already on other channels.

Content to Sustain the Lockdown

The second area is content to sustain us through the lockdown.

There’s clearly a limit to how much “new” we commission. So it is vitally important that we work hard to stretch our content so that it lasts as long as possible. Clever scheduling will help this. But we will still need more…

We are looking to populate iPlayer with extra content – content you have produced in the past. Curations that we can promote. Therefore you may get a call in the coming weeks from my team asking you about rights and repeats and so on. Please help us with this .

We’ve already mapped out a wish list of shows that we can build into tasty iplayer box sets that we know our audience will love.

Beyond COVID

There will come a time when the audience are looking for new stories.

It goes without saying that the team are all up for developing new ideas with you and are briefed about what we will be looking to broadcast next year. And what we already have on our slate.

Please continue to talk to us about those ideas. And please remember that tone of voice we’re going for on the channel - I mentioned it at our last briefing. And at that session we played a showreel that gave you a sense of some of the shows in the offing. That all remains very much the strategy.

Many of you will have applied for the small indie fund a few short months ago. BBC Network TV are doubling the size of the fund. This indie fund is to maintain a diversity of voice and supply across the UK. The ambition is for this fund to support a broader range of companies with clear development opportunities.

Shortform for Social

Fourth and finally, I want to mention a number of strands of short form we want to commission over the coming few weeks. It may be that the ideas you discuss with us are more suited to short form but you may have in mind bespoke ideas for short form – we want to hear about them.

Our news services are focused on providing breaking news, the latest information and stories about the virus. So we’re focussing here on entertaining and educating audiences through our social and digital platforms – (namely, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.).

Target audience Under 45s across our social and digital platforms

Audience needs - Staying connected to normality and to each other , Escapism, Relieving boredom, Inspiration and motivation, Support on issues they’re facing

  • Content areas to look at:
  • Comedy and humour
  • Landscape and nature / gardening
  • Challenges that people can be involved in
  • Welsh history and culture - inspiring Welsh people
  • Learning things to survive - Life hacks, tips, cookery / recipes, looking after kids
  • Learning for self-improvement - interesting facts, learn a language, how to do something or make something, lessons from people
  • Live streams - it’s a chance to do something that brings people together

*I understand that some of the companies that pitch for our TV commissions also pitch for some of our digital commissions. Nia M Davies who commissions our Education content for Wales is also following a similar path to our TV commissioning in that she will be calling upon the independent sector to help with production through the normal commissioning route. She’s particularly interested to hear from companies that may still be able to produce animation to help parents and pupils during this time. Please do feel free to contact her.

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Nick Andrews

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