• The BBC has pledged to uphold its principles to keep audiences “informed, educated and entertained in unprecedented times”.
  • Plans include broadcasting a weekly prime-time TV special on COVID-19, producing a daily COVID-19 podcast, and answering listeners’ questions with regular radio phone-ins.
  • Children out of school can watch a daily programme for different stages and year groups and more educational content on the BBC’s streaming and catch-up service.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced television stations to suspend filming of popular shows, record live-audience format programmes in empty studios, and run replays of sporting events.

But while the world’s broadcast media is responding by rethinking programming schedules and taking steps to protect presenters, production crews and other workers, some organizations are going further – providing content designed to help viewers and listeners cope with the crisis.

Confirmed Coronavirus Cases
Countries are ramping up measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Image: John Hopkins University

On 18 March, as the United Kingdom ramped up measures to reduce the spread of the virus, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) set out how it will uphold its principles to keep the nation “informed, educated and entertained in unprecedented times”.

The plans include broadcasting a weekly prime-time TV special on COVID-19, producing a daily COVID-19 podcast, and answering listeners’ questions with regular phone-ins through the BBC’s national radio service 5 Live.

Local BBC radio stations will help communities by teaming up with volunteer groups to support the elderly and other vulnerable people. Between 6am and midday their output will focus on coronavirus news, phone-ins and expert advice.

In an effort to help people “deal with the impact of the crisis on their own lives” the BBC is planning programming aimed at providing comfort to people in isolation and helping them to keep fit and eat healthily.

There will be a virtual church service on Sunday mornings across local radio, led initially by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is head of the Church of England. The BBC will also aim to broadcast a weekly televised Sunday service and look at how to support other religions and denominations.

TV classrooms

As of 20 March, more than 100 countries worldwide had shut down schools and universities due to COVID-19. This adds up to more than 850 million children and young people – roughly half of the global student population – out of class.

The closures have led to soaring demand for remote learning tools, such as interactive apps and online lessons and study resources.

Only days before the UK government announced a nationwide closure of schools, the BBC pledged to increase its educational output, including new daily podcasts for students, a daily programme for different stages and year groups and more educational content on the BBC’s iPlayer streaming and catch-up service.

Like the BBC, United States public broadcaster PBS has responded to the pandemic with more programming and online content that it says will “keep Americans informed and support families and educators.”

PBS Kids and PBS Learning Media are supporting learning at home with educational videos and games from popular series, and PBS local stations will also be resources for families and teachers.