BBC admits more repeats to air into 2021 due to coronavirus

Albertina Lloyd
Entertainment reporter, Yahoo UK
'EastEnders' has run out of episodes, going off air on June 16th. (BBC)

BBC bosses have admitted it will have to air more repeats in the coming months and into next year.

The public service broadcaster – funded by an annual licence fee – has a shortage of TV shows due to productions being cancelled during the coronavirus lockdown, which will begin to affect schedules increasingly heading into 2021.

Clare Sumner, the BBC’s director of policy, was asked by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee if viewers will see “endless repeats”.

She said: “I really hope not but… the schedule is going to be mixed.”

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Sumner added: “I think, for us, it will particularly get thinner next year because of the way that production falls.”

James Purnell, director of radio and education, said the production on a lot of children’s TV have been cancelled.

He said: “Yes, we are going to have to have some repeats. The main thing driving that is it’s very hard to film right now.

“On the television side, in children’s, we have had to cancel quite a significant proportion of the dramas and comedy we were planning to film over the summer.”

Purnell added: “We’re working very hard with the industry and the DCMS (Department For Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) to get television production back up and running as soon as possible.

“With radio that’s a bit easier.”

And he revealed one way of filling the schedules will be to air repeats from the archive of past Glastonbury Festivals and the BBC Proms.

Purnell said: “It will be repeats [of Glastonbury], but it will be an incredible archive.

“The same with the Proms … It may not be the Proms we have been used to but the Proms we need right now and the Proms we can do.”

Stacey Dooley will host behind the scenes EastEnders show 'Secrets From The Square'. (BBC)

The admission that viewers can expect more repeats comes as soap opera EastEnders has gone off air for the first time since it began in 1985.

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The last episode of the BBC soap aired on Tuesday June 16th and production has not resumed.

Producers are hoping to start filming in Albert Square again later this month and when it does return, episodes will be 10 minutes shorter than before.

The show had already been airing at a reduced number of episodes a week in order the stretch out what remained for as long as possible in lockdown.

In the meantime the BBC will air a series of behind the scenes specials Secrets from the Square at 8pm on Mondays on BBC One.

David Tennant and Michael Sheen star in BBC lockdown comedy 'Staged'. (BBC/GCB Films/Infinity Hill)

Host Stacey Dooley will interview two cast members and look back at memorable storylines of the last 35 years. Stars who have already been revealed to be taking part include Danny Dyer, Letitia Dean, Tameka Empson and Adam Woodyatt.

And the BBC has been able to shoot some new shows in lockdown. Including quarantine comedy Staged starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant. And an all-star revival of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues filmed with socially distancing rules in place.