BBC ‘intent’ on keeping news on air during coronavirus outbreak

BBC cameraman

BBC director general Tony Hall has told MPs there’s a chance that part of its services could be “out of action” for a spell if the corporation’s newsrooms suffered an outbreak of coronavirus.

Lord Hall said the broadcaster was “intent on keeping absolutely everything open”.

But the BBC is “gaming out” what would happen if staff went sick, he said.

“You could imagine a local station or some other part of our news operation being out of action for a period.”

The outgoing director general told the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee that he would chair another meeting about the issue later on Thursday.

“We have to make sure our news services keep transmitting on television and on radio, and we are making sure we’ve got every eventuality covered,” he said.

“We are gaming out what happens if x% of the staff [caught coronavirus] or what happens if there was a case in one of our stations or newsrooms, what would we do and how we would cope with that?”

Asked whether there could be a scaling back of services, he replied: “There could be – I hope there won’t be.”

He said executives were “working through how we could cope with” a service being out of action, and how to ensure “we can keep broadcasting the information that the people need to have”.

He added: “At the moment we are intent on keeping absolutely everything open, all our networks going, because we know that globally, nationally and locally, people turn to us for information, as they did during the floods.

“[We want] to make sure we can keep going if some reason there was illness within a team. We’re not planning on anything other than keeping everything going at the moment, but we need to plot just in case something happens.

“The primary purpose is to keep our services going. If we were hit to a very high degree by sickness then our priority is to make sure we have a service people would turn to, and that that service would keep going.”

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