BBC, ITV unveil measures to support UK indies impacted by COVID-19

The BBC announced a package of measures Monday (April 6) designed to maintain the “creative health and viability” of the UK independent producer sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The British pubcaster’s five ...
April 6, 2020

The BBC announced a package of measures Monday (April 6) designed to maintain the “creative health and viability” of the UK independent producer sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The British pubcaster’s five point plan is intended to provide “investment in purposeful activity and enable production companies to continue a pipeline of quality ideas and programs.”

Measures include: A “company-centric” approach to impacted production; doubling its investment in the small indie fund; “supercharging” development; expanding BBC3 creative partnerships; and investment in archive rights.

As part of its company-centric approach, the BBC stated it will continue to work closely with production companies on projects that have been disrupted to find “supportive solutions,” including flexibility around delivery and varying cash flow on a title-by-title basis.

The BBC will also scale up its ring-fenced funding in the previously-announced Small Indie Fund this year from £1 million to £2 million.

The pubcaster plans to inject additional development spend over the next few months to focus on both short and long-term opportunities. The BBC stated it will “openly communicate” these to the sector over the next few weeks.

Working with BBC Nations and Regions and “interested sector partners,” partnerships with BBC3 — which has already teamed with BBC Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Screen — will be extended to other areas of the UK in a variety of genres.

Shortlisted companies will receive development funding and online sessions with the BBC3 team. The “best ideas” will be piloted, and at least one idea per nation will be commissioned.

Finally, the BBC will increase its investment in archive and acquisition rights in order to “broaden the range of content available.”

Bal Samra, BBC Group commercial director, said in a statement: “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.”

Charlotte Moore, director of content, added: “We recognize 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.”

Elsewhere, UK broadcaster ITV has created a £500,000 development fund targeted at the independent production sector.

The fund is designed to “accelerate” the search for new ideas and content — particularly in the unscripted space– for the channel to play in the later part of 2020 and 2021.

Kevin Lygo, ITV’s director of television, said in a statement: “ITV’s success is based on the ideas that are brought to us by indies from across the UK and we don’t want that to stop.  We have this money specifically available to ramp up development over the next few months so we can hit the ground running when current restrictions are lifted. The commissioning teams are willing to increase the number of virtual meetings they have in order to build up an exciting slate over the next few months – so if you have an idea for us, especially in the unscripted space, we are in a position to help fund that immediately.”

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.