As people get used to the realisation that the fight against coronavirus will take time, there are interesting questions for broadcasters to tackle.
News and reliable information is more important than ever – not least to counter some of the nonsense on the internet. But so too is providing enjoyment, diversion and some sense of normality. With programme production badly disrupted since March, this is no easy task.
Dramas like Des – which won big ratings and critical acclaim this week – can play a huge role in providing that sense of norm, strange as it may seem to say that about a programme which dealt with a very dark and disturbing subject.
Inevitably though, the autumn will feature fewer landmark programmes than usual despite the incredible efforts of production teams to restore some dramas, soaps and favourites like Strictly.
This is one reason why there may be more programmes featuring archive and studio-bound quiz shows. But normality is being restored in more subtle ways too.
News programmes feature a wider range of stories again. So do topical programmes like This Morning and The One Show.
And a further little tweak is set for Monday. ITV’s regional news bulletins at lunchtime and at weekends are set to return to their normal durations. The daytime regional weather forecasts are also set to return.
Greater normality for the viewer and proof the company is adapting as, to use the cliche, this could be a long haul. The architecture of the schedule will be back to normal. More regional programmes are also back in Wales and Northern Ireland – the amount is still lower than average but no lower than it often is in an individual week.
It’s also interesting to note that ITV also appears set to launch some of its sub-regions in HD soon. Tests are being carried out on satellite presently.
There has been no confirmation but it would seem reasonable to suppose that priorities would include Central East, Yorkshire East and Meridian South.
This would mean Sky viewers in virtually all of England would get ITV HD on 103 while the BBC, perhaps through financial constraints, still offers a single version of BBC One HD in England, with a caption during the regional news timeslots.
Again, it’s to the credit of the company and individuals that they could implement this during a crisis. It could even just boost the morale of a few viewers at a time when they need it.
At the risk of being boring though, the fact so much normality is now possible again highlights how the point is fast approaching where a return to full UTV branding and continuity will have to be made, if it is to happen at all. Rumours are circulating about the potential return of UTV continuity in early October.
However anyone concerned about UTV itself can easily be reassured. The return of longer bulletins, extra weather forecasts and some regional programmes matter far more than continuity and slightly altered trails for network programmes.
Branded trails for local programmes (and perhaps the return of trails for the regional news during the 5pm hour from Monday) will certainly give a more local feel to the channel again.
Would rebranding network trails make any sense now? Especially given the ITV Hub dual branding which from this week has been verbal as well as visual.
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