Filming of the latest series of Peaky Blinders and Line of Duty, two of the most popular shows on British television, has been postponed as the UK film and TV production industry starts to grind to a halt in the face of the spread of the coronavirus.

Production of the sixth series of Line of Duty began in Northern Ireland last month. The makers of Peaky Blinders, which stars Cillian Murphy and Helen McCrory, have decided not to start filming the sixth series of the cult show.

“In light of the spread of Covid-19, after much consideration, the producers – Caryn Mandabach Productions and Tiger Aspect Productions – of Peaky Blinders S6 have postponed filming, and World Productions on Line of Duty S6 have suspended filming, both in consultation with and supported by the BBC,” a BBC spokesperson said. “We will continue to review all productions on a case-by-case basis and will continue to follow the latest news and advice from the Foreign Office, World Health Organization and Public Health England.”

The postponement of the two shows, which air on BBC One, the country’s most-watched channel, and regularly attract more than 20 million viewers, marks the start of an unprecedented year of disruption for TV companies and viewers.

To limit the risk of transmitting the virus, ITV has told producers to make shows without live audiences if possible. The first show to do so is Loose Women. Shows are being assessed on a case-by-case basis, including this week’s edition of Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.

Last year more than £3.6bn was spent making more than 300 films and high-end TV shows, such as His Dark Materials and The Crown, that cost at least £1m per episode. This does not include the hundreds of lower-cost programmes that fill TV schedules on a daily basis, from Coronation Street and Bargain Hunt to Gogglebox and Great British Bake Off.

Richard Burrell, the producer of Channel 5’s remake of All Creatures Great and Small, warned that all TV dramas in pre-production phase are facing shutdown as it is not possible to get production insurance against the coronavirus.

Entire TV drama production industry (98% freelance) of shows in pre-production is on verge of shutting as cannot get production insurance. 1000’s will have work cancelled.

— Richard Burrell (@rbmagpies99) March 14, 2020

Broadcasters will have to look at how to film shows that have live audiences, from Question Time to Antiques Roadshow and Saturday Night Takeaway, behind closed doors or pull them from TV schedules as the health risk grows.

Broadcasters sit on a stock of several months of shows such as Coronation Street and Eastenders. However, as more productions are put on hold the pipeline of shows will dry up resulting in TV broadcasters turning to repeats.

“With so many shows not being able to be delivered later this year and into next year there will be holes in TV schedules and that probably means a lot of repeats,” said John McVay, the chief executive of Pact, the body that represents UK production companies.

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ITV will find out on Tuesday whether Euro 2020 will go ahead in June, as Uefa meets to decide the tournament’s fate. In March the broadcaster told investors that advertising revenues will be down 10% in April, as travel-related advertisers pulled campaigns. However, the situation has significantly worsened since then, leaving the TV industry facing its worst year since the downturn in 2008.

Production industry executives believe that ITV’s Love Island, which is filmed in Mallorca over the summer, will not be able to go ahead. With travel bans and the health risk to the participants and crew, ITV will have to look at a location in the UK, or delay the series, the executives believe. Spain has more than 9,000 cases of coronavirus, only China, Italy and Iran have more. On Monday, Amazon postponed shooting the French version of Love Island.

The UK film industry is similarly affected, as Disney has announced a pause on the production of Batman, starring the Twilight actor Robert Pattinson, and The Little Mermaid, both of which are being shot in the UK.


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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