Coronavirus: BBC makes major changes

You'll see changes to BBC television, radio, online and red button services as news is cut to a core service and productions on shows cease. 

As schools in the UK close, the BBC is planning to make changes to BBC Four and the Red Button, with a block of programming each weekday evening to show programmes that support the GCSE and A Level curriculum. In Scotland, the BBC Scotland channel will support the Scottish NQs and Highers in daytime.

For viewers and listeners stuck at home, the BBC will bring back many favourite shows, allowing people of all ages to escape into some top-quality entertainment on both linear channels and on BBC iPlayer.

New boxsets going up shortly include Spooks, The Missing, Waking The Dead, French And Saunders, Wallander and The Honourable Woman, as well as more from BBC Three.

The BBC will also be launching an exciting new iPlayer experience for children, which promises to offer a wide range of entertaining and educational series.

Radio 4 will aim to provide some joy and laughter by running classic editions of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and Just A Minute. BBC Sounds will also bring back a number of classic radio shows in the coming weeks.

As part of the BBC's core service, the BBC's Director-General Lord Hall has confirmed the broadcaster "will do everything we can to maintain Breakfast, the One, Six and Ten and ensure they continue to perform a vital role on BBC One."

Changes to BBC News programming were announced yesterday, to ensure the BBC can continue running a service with increased numbers of staff having to self-isolate. These include the premature axing of Victoria Derbyshire, plus the suspension of programmes including Politics Live and The Travel Show.

In addition, the BBC confirmed it will keep Newsround bulletins on air throughout the day on CBBC and it will continue to delay the planned closure of the Red Button text news and information service.

The One Show will adjust to become a consumer programme show for all aspects of the crisis. This will include health and well-being advice, keeping fit and healthy eating tips, as well as links to other BBC output that can help and support. In BBC One daytime, Health Check UK Live will directly address the concerns of viewers who are in isolation, offering tips on how to keep healthy and happy at home.

The BBC will also launching a virtual church service on Sunday mornings across local radio in England, led initially by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Subject to outside broadcast capacity the BBC also aims to broadcast a weekly Sunday morning church service on BBC One, and explore how to support other religions and denominations, including in the run-up to Ramadan.

These measures come as regular production on shows and dramas come to a halt or are curtailed. EastEnders is to be cut to two episodes a week as filming is postponed. Question Time will be brought forward to 8pm on Thursday evenings, filmed without an audience with questions submitted in advance.

The changes are likely to have an impact on BBC schedules right through to the summer, with Euro 2020 being postponed and Glastonbury being cancelled, leaving a massive hole in schedules.

Speaking about the changes, Lord Hall said:
We all know these are challenging times for each and every one of us. As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a special role to play at this time of national need. We need to pull together to get through this. That’s why the BBC will be using all of its resources - channels, stations and output - to help keep the nation informed, educated and entertained. We are making a series of changes to our output to achieve that. We will continue to deliver all the essential news and information - with special programming and content.
We also will do everything from using our airwaves for exercise classes for older people, religious services, recipes and advice on food for older people and low-income families, and should schools close, education programming for different age groups. We will also be launching a whole new iPlayer experience for children. And of course there will be entertainment - with the ambition of giving people some escapism and hopefully the odd smile.
Clearly there will be disruption to our output along the way, but we will do our very best.
It will take time to emerge from the challenges we all face, but the BBC will be there for the public all the way through this.