Film and TV Update: Pact and UK broadcasters issue Covid-19 guidance for TV production

Posted: May 19, 2020

The Producers Alliance for Film and Television (Pact), the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, ViacomCBS, Sky, the Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services (COBA) and others have together issued industry-wide guidance intended to enable a return to production for the television industry.

The guidance document (available through Pact’s website here), is designed to supplement protocols that will be published by the British Film Commission. It lays out the key areas to consider when assessing risk on productions and suggests controls to consider.

The guidelines state that producers, in conjunction with commissioning broadcasters, must make provisions in the following six areas before commencing production on television projects across all genres:

  1. Specifically consider people at higher risk of harm.
  2. Heighten safety precautions for everyone at work.
  3. Reduce the number of people involved in shoots.
  4. Consider on-camera requirements, such as changing scripts to encourage social distancing.
  5. Consider mental health and wellbeing of cast and crew.
  6. Establish feedback loops.

Pact are also continuing to host weekly webinars addressing queries from their members relating to Covid-19 and its impact on the film and television industry. We have set out below some significant updates arising from the most recent webinar.

Production Insurance: as noted before, the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic means that productions will struggle to obtain cover in respect of the country suffering another lockdown. Pact are currently drafting a set of proposals whereby the Government would effectively underwrite any suspension or abandonment costs going forward. France, Australia and Canada are already developing similar government-backed schemes. Pact are lobbying for a short-term solution enabling film and television production to recommence while the Government works through insurance proposals for the broader UK economy.

Discussions with Equity: as mentioned in our previous note, Pact are looking at establishing a process by which producers can engage actors on a first call basis during this period, other than by paying the first call payments set out in Appendix T45 of the Pact/Equity agreement. Pact plan to publish an amendment to the agreement this week which will allow some producers to do this. Discussions are ongoing with both the PMA and Equity regarding the process by which actors can be re-engaged following the lifting of the lockdown.

David Whitehead, Associate, Simkins LLP