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COVID-19: We're in the response for the long haul

Caroline Nursey

Chief Executive Officer, BBC Media Action

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As for billions of people around the world, the past few months have been a story of adaptation and change for BBC Media Action.

We have rapidly changed how we work in ways we’d never imagined – from writing, producing and packaging an Indonesian drama series entirely from home, to setting up mobile surveys in Zambia to understand how concerns about the pandemic differ among rural and urban communities.

Our dedicated teams around the world are engaged in the rapid response to COVID-19 – providing lifesaving information to vulnerable communities and supporting local and national media partners to do the same. This has involved helping audiences understand the steps they can take to prevent transmission and minimise their exposure. It also means ensuring audiences know how to access other health and emergency services in the pandemic – including for diseases like malaria, and following heavy rains and flooding from Cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh.

We’re doing this safely by innovating new distance research methods, ensuring our production teams take clear health and safety precautions, training our partners remotely, and virtually sharing practical COVID-19 resources for media and communication professionals.

It is clear that COVID-19 is not going away any time soon. And neither are we.

Beyond providing lifesaving information in the immediate response, we know from over 20 years’ experience that media plays a vital role in connecting people in a crisis and helping audiences cope in the longer term.

Media can support audiences’ psychosocial well-being and help them feel more hopeful by connecting them with others who share their questions, feelings and worries and by providing them with a platform for constructive discussion. 

We’re also working to address the longer-term impacts of COVID-19 – from our women’s empowerment project in Afghanistan tackling increased levels of gender-based violence, to a radio show in South Sudan encouraging home learning so children out of school due to lockdown don’t lose out on an education.

This pandemic has shown even more starkly the critical importance of public interest media – to inform, connect, engage and empower people. At a time when trusted information and platforms are needed more than ever, COVID-19 risks being an ‘extinction event’ for many independent media as their revenue streams collapse. We’re proud to have recently proposed a solution in partnership with Luminate: an International Fund for Public Interest Media.

I am immensely proud of our staff for their tireless dedication and hard work in the face of such unprecedented and extraordinary times.

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Caroline Nursey OBE is Chief Executive Officer of BBC Media Action.

To learn more about our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

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