Channel 5 makes Covid19 related schedule changes

Channel 5 has become the latest broadcaster to review its news provision, in a move to protect staff.

From next week, the 6:30pm edition of 5 News will not be shown. Instead, the ViacomCBS-owned channel has said it's putting resources into maintaining its 5pm bulletin, so that it could continue to offer a news service with fewer staff on hand.

As a channel with public service broadcasting responsibilities and a quota of news to be provided, the move had to be cleared with Ofcom. Earlier this month, it had indicated that it would factor the effects of Coronavirus on regulatory obligations. It told stakeholders that while regulatory obligations continue to be important, "we recognise that the impact ... means it will not always be possible to meet these obligations."

Channel 5 is already affected by disruption of the filming schedule of its Australian soaps Neighbours and Home and Away in its early evening schedule - these are being cut to two episodes a week.

Revised schedule

As a result, next Monday, Channel 5 will broadcast an edition of showbiz news programme Access at 6pm, followed by another chance to watch a programme about the Yorkshire Stream Railway at 6:10pm through to 7pm.

Why are news broadcasters cutting back as news demand peaks?

News programmes are enjoying record audiences, so it may seem odd that many news programmes are being affected at the moment.

It's not just because of the numbers of staff needing to self-isolate.

Social distancing rules restrict the number of people that can be in one place at one time, so in some cases it's operationally impossible to continue running a normal service.

Additionally, by reducing the number of staff working on news programmes, broadcasters create a pool of staff that are on standby to take over if the current crew is affected by an outbreak.

Some broadcasters have even reduced the number of studios used, so that if one studio is affected by an outbreak, there's another one ready to take over, or there's a standby to allow a deep clean to take place.

Other broadcasters have also made use of contingency measures where news programmes can come from a different part of the UK, or even the presenter's home. Crucially, these measures reduce the risk of the infection spreading through an entire production team by separating them as much as possible.

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  1. All the broadcasters can reduce their hours of news as there is only one story - Covid-19