Wednesday 18 March 2020 3:06 pm

Coronavirus: BBC overhauls broadcast plans to tackle outbreak

The BBC today unveiled a raft of new measures aimed at keeping the public informed during the “unprecedented” coronavirus outbreak.

Director general Tony Hall said the public service broadcaster would launch special programming on TV and radio to provide audiences with the latest information on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read more: Coronavirus: BBC suspends Eastenders filming

As part of the wide-ranging changes, the BBC will broadcast a weekly prime-time coronavirus special on Wednesday on BBC One and record a daily edition of the coronavirus podcast.

Political panel show Question Time will be moved to 8pm on Thursday, with call-in audiences and remote guests.

Regular phone-ins will be hosted on Radio 5 Live, while local radio stations will partner with local volunteer groups to help coordinate support for the elderly and the house-bound.

The BBC said it will use The One Show as a consumer programme for all aspects of the crisis, including health and well-being advice.

Virtual church services will also be held every Sunday mornings across local radio, initially led by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“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,” Hall said in a statement.

“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.”

The broadcaster also outlined measures in case of school closures. Both Scotland and Wales have announced that schools will close by the end of the week, while education secretary Gavin Williamson, who oversees English schools, is due to make a statement later today.

These measures will include a daily educational programme for different key stages or year groups and a new iPlayer experience aimed at children.

The BBC also said it was also committed to providing entertainment and escapism during the crisis.

The corporation will bring back a number of box sets to iPlayer, including Spooks, French and Saunders and Wallander.

It will also launch an arts and culture service, dubbed Culture in Quarantine, that will feature performances, plays and guides to closed exhibitions.

Fellow public service broadcaster ITV today also set out its plans in response to the pandemic.

The firm said it will launch a new weekly Monday night show called Coronavirus Report, produced by ITV News.

ITV said some of its entertainment shows, including Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, would now air without a live studio audience.

However, the live semi-final and final of The Voice UK have now been postponed.

Read more: ITV shares drop despite £50m saving from Euro 2020 cancellation

“There will be further developments and challenges ahead  – such as filling the gaps left by the suspension of sporting events – so we will continue to keep viewers fully informed as we progress,” said Kevin Lygo, ITV director of television.

“We are already seeing new ideas coming through which might provide innovative new ways of producing TV in these uniquely challenging times.”