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BBC NI commissioning brief March 2020

Date Posted: March 24, 2020

Posted on behalf of BBC Northern Ireland

BBC Northern Ireland is now seeking ideas for programmes which can be plausibly and safely developed, or produced, in the context of the emergency measures necessitated by the Coronavirus.

We anticipate two types of proposals:

  1. Work that can be commissioned, contracted and started, in a social distancing or lock-down environment, but delivered at a point in the future, when the emergency measures are lifted, (eg, development phases on new proposals, or initial work of value, on previously commissioned, returnable series), and;
  2. Work that can be started now, but can be completed, delivered and transmitted during a lock-down (eg, archive-driven shows, innovative ideas for programming that can plausibly and safely be made and delivered by teams that are geographically separated, but digitally connected).

Public safety is our primary concern, and we will err on the side of caution in assessing proposals. But we are also mindful of the strong audience need for content which can augment News output, and we want to do what we can, to help protect the health of our content suppliers. During this period, we will be adapting our opt-out schedules on TV & iPlayer in a strategic manner, to respond to these emerging audience needs.

We appreciate the challenges that the sector is facing, and what a worrying time this is, and we want to play a proactive role in helping you manage these challenges. Our starting point is to bring additional flexibility to our normal business practices and procedures – and this round should be seen in this context. It is a normal round, conducted via standard practices and procedures, which have been adapted to work within the unique context of the Coronavirus.

In editorial terms, this will mean that ideas for transmission during the emergency should focus on programmes which can entertain audiences, providing laughter, positivity, escapism, companionship, shared local experiences, warm nostalgia, and a sense of connection to the outside world. And alongside this need for programmes which provide distraction from the Coronavirus, we are also open to ideas which seek to chart this crisis in a safe way.

We are interested in proposals that can serve all audiences, but we are conscious that the social distancing measures will pose particular challenges for older audiences and families who are self-isolating – so proposals that work for these audiences will be of interest. Again, alongside playful and distracting content, we also want to provide viewers with some practical/educational material.
We can be quite flexible on genre, and we will consider any proposal that sits within these broad parameters, and which (crucially) can plausibly, and safely, deliver for transmission during the emergency phase.

In terms of processes and assessment, again we can adapt our practices to respond to the challenges, for example, we may hold pitches via Skype/Zoom. In addition, we will endeavour to make these decisions, and move to contract, as quickly as possible. But, as with any normal round, this will be quite a competitive, rigorous process.

All ideas and proposals should be submitted via BBC Pitch by Friday 3rd April 2020 at 5pm.

The commissioning team will be available to offer editorial guidance and answer queries, prior to submission on the phone or via Zoom/Skype. We can outline both the short term editorial priorities for content transmitting during the emergency, and also the longer term strategy, for content transmitting when the emergency measures have been lifted. If you wish to set up a time to chat, or have any other technical query, please contact Linda McCarter, and we will do our best to get around to everyone as quickly as possible.

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