BBC announces package of measures to maintain creative health of the independent production sector during the COVID-19 pandemic

The UK independent production sector plays a critical role in helping the BBC deliver its remit to make world class content for audiences, across all its platforms and services.

Published: 6 April 2020
We want to do what we can to keep creativity focused and thriving so that we can continue to bring audiences the high quality content that they expect. These measures demonstrate our long term commitment to sustaining the creative health of the industry, right across the UK.
— Charlotte Moore

The BBC is therefore committed to maintaining the creative health and viability of its supply base across the UK during the current disruption and challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. All content divisions will adopt a similar approach with a particular focus on companies who are most vulnerable, but tailored to the needs and profile of their relevant production communities.

Bal Samra, BBC Group Commercial Director, says: “This is an unprecedented event, which is causing massive disruption in the market, for broadcasters, production companies, talent and freelancers. It’s at times like these that the creative industries need to pull together - to make sure the sector we return to at the end of the pandemic is as rich and vibrant as the one we have now. The BBC will contribute to that across the breadth of our output on TV, radio, children’s and nations and regions.”

Today BBC Content is announcing a five point plan to back the broadcasting industry at this difficult time. The measures announced will provide investment in purposeful activity and enable production companies to continue a pipeline of quality ideas and programmes, in both the short and long term.

The package of measures include:

1) A company-centric approach to impacted productions
2) Doubling our investment in the small indie fund
3) Supercharging development
4) Expanding BBC Three creative partnerships
5) Investment in archive rights

Charlotte Moore, Director of Content, says: “We recognise this is an incredibly challenging time for all of those working in the creative industry and especially the smaller independent production companies. We want to do what we can to keep creativity focused and thriving so that we can continue to bring audiences the high quality content that they expect. These measures demonstrate our long term commitment to sustaining the creative health of the industry, right across the UK.”

Further details of the measures announced today:

A company-centric approach to impacted productions

  • We will continue working closely with production companies on current projects which have been disrupted, to find supportive solutions wherever possible. This will include being flexible around delivery, and varying cash flow as appropriate on a title-by-title basis

Doubling up our investment in the Small Indie Fund

  • We will scale up our ring-fenced funding in the previously announced Small Indie Fund this year from £1m to £2m
  • This additional funding for companies across TV and film will enable us to increase the value of our investment in some cases and work with a larger number of companies who’ve already expressed an interest in the Fund - focusing particularly on the smallest producers, those in the nations and regions or with diverse leadership
  • We will identify and ringfence clear short/medium term development opportunities for this group and give them clear commissioning contacts
  • The selection of companies will be informed by both Network and Nations commissioners

Supercharging development

  • We will inject additional development spend over the next few months to focus on both short and long term opportunities
  • We will openly communicate these to the sector over the next few weeks via our website and online briefings in relevant genres

Expanding BBC Three creative partnerships in other nations and regions

  • BBC Three already has a successful partnership with BBC NI and NI Screen which has seen producers secure fact entertainment pilots for the channel
  • Working with BBC Nations and Regions and interested sector partners, we will extend this model to other areas of the UK in a variety of genres.
  • Following an open brief, shortlisted companies will receive development funding and in-depth online sessions with the BBC Three team. The best ideas will be piloted, as appropriate to the relevant genre, and at least one idea per nation or region will be commissioned

Investment in archive rights

  • We will increase investment in archive and acquisition rights during this period
  • This will broaden the range of content available for audiences to enjoy across our services

In addition, as previously announced, the BBC has donated £700,000 to support The Film and TV Charity to assist freelancers affected by the hiatus in filming and production caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will come principally from the BBC’s commercial production and distribution arm, BBC Studios, with contributions from public service commissioning teams, including BBC Content.

Alongside our own plans, we will also update our commissioning website to provide information for companies and freelancers as to where they can go for other advice and support during these challenging times.

These initiatives and funds relate to BBC Content; other commissioning teams in BBC radio, education, nations and regions and children’s will take the same overall approach but applied in a way relevant to their sector, and be communicated as appropriate.