BBC sets out comprehensive plan to inform, educate and entertain this autumn and winter


TODAY THE BBC is setting out how they will keep audiences informed, educated, and entertained through continuing unprecedented times for the UK and the world.

New announcements include:

·         New local radio output in Bradford, Wolverhampton and Sunderland, distributed online and on broadcast (where possible), providing local news and information

·         A special Bitesize offer for teachers and students covering each of the four Nations national curricula until the Easter holidays on TV and online

·         The Christmas Like No Other project reflecting hope, compassion and grief through the Christian faith, other faiths and people of no religious faith

·         A celebration of New Year’s Eve like never before with The Big New Year’s In

·         A winter comedy season on TV and radio

·         A fantastic range of new boxsets added to hundreds of hours already on iPlayer.

Director-General, Tim Davie said: “At a time that is challenging for individuals and every family, the BBC plays a unique role in putting a smile on people’s faces, in helping children with their education, connecting people in local communities, and providing some much needed escapism. We are incredibly proud to be going the extra mile this Christmas.”

1.                Informing the UK; its Nations, regions, localities and communities; and the world

The pandemic has shown the critical role of BBC News in times of crisis. Hundreds of millions of people have turned to BBC News for accurate, trusted public information, with record audiences in the last few weeks.

Our biggest priority continues to be delivering core journalism while keeping our people safe. We have brought back a broad range of content in the last few months and will endeavour to keep nearly all programmes on air over the next few months, subject to the impact on staff of the virus.

On air, the new Morning Live show on BBC One will be live each weekday morning up until Christmas, giving viewers access to the BBC’s team of experts. The One Show also continuesto reflect viewers’ concerns daily as it did earlier this year.

New TV documentaries will bring insight and context:

·         Hospital, with the story of the NHS as it prepares for the second wave

·         Lockdown 1.0. Following the Science? about the response to the first wave

·         A two-part series on the Chinese and American responses to the virus in the early months of the pandemic

·         A three-part series on the global story of the pandemic from the point of view of ordinary people

·         A Horizon special, with access to the scientists leading the development of the vaccine across the world, including in the US, UK, Asia and Australia

·         David Harewood investigates the disproportionate impact Covid-19 is having on British people of colour

·         Covid, bankruptcy and me – Panorama on the economic impact of the pandemic and the associated lockdowns, with a focus on small businesses

·         Three BBC One documentaries on The Truth About…Mental Health, Boosting Your Immune System and Getting Fit at Home.

Mark Carney’s Reith Lectures 2020 on Radio 4 will explore how what we value as a society has contributed to a trio of crises: credit, Covid-19 and climate. Radio 4 is launching a new series on air and on BBC Sounds from the More or Less team: How to Vaccinate the World. Online, we will launch new topic pages around correspondents to bring more in-depth, trusted, expert-led reporting on important topics on the crisis.

This autumn, the experience of the pandemic for many is very different: each Nation of the UK has a differentiated approach, the virus has impacted different regions at varying rates, and some groups are more adversely affected than others.

To respond, and as part of our ambition to enhance BBC local radio in the North of England and Midlands, we are creating new temporary local radio output for new locations focused on serving very local audiences, starting in Bradford, Wolverhampton and Sunderland, and distributed online and broadcast (where possible). We will provide local news and information and invite our audience to get involved. 

BBC World Service, in collaboration with Asian Network and local radio will produce video content about the coronavirus in Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil and Gujarati weekly for diaspora communities across the UK. This content is being distributed via BBC online and to 19 community radio stations across the country.

2.                Educating, advising, supporting and connecting

We will continue to help our audiences deal with the impact of the crisis by providing education and support, as well as connecting people virtually to culture and worship when lockdown and social distancing make those activities physically impossible.

Bitesize Daily continues on CBBC as well as iPlayer and online. Nearly 200 20-minute shows are now available on iPlayer, featuring teachers, experts and famous faces from the worlds of sport, culture and literature. Bitesize Daily Primary (5-11 years) is shown on CBBC from 9am every day, with an extra hour of educational factual content following on.

The Bitesize online offer has become essential to delivering support for parents, teachers and students during the crisis:

·         For primary school children, there are a range of structured Maths and English lessons for each year group that can be used by parents if their children are in isolation bubbles from school

·         There is a special autumn curriculum for primary and secondary schools and This Term’s Topics curates 100 pieces of content for it

·         Every Monday BBC Teach has Live Lessons aimed at primary school students with a range of famous faces

·         For secondary students we have Key Stage 3 – with two weeks of home learning content packs plus our unrivalled offer for GCSE, Nationals and Highers students. Among hundreds of engaging learner guides is a ‘Find Your Gaps’ GCSE quiz – an adaptive quiz that helps student pinpoint what they know and what they still need to master.

We will run a special Bitesize offer covering the needs of each of the four Nations national curricula until the Easter holidays on TV and online. And Newsround takes the latest news of Covid updates and lockdown rules to more than one million children every week, with thousands of classrooms watching the daily bulletin. 

As regular congregational church services are once more not permitted, the BBC continues to connect audiences across the UK:

·         The Christmas Like No Other project recognises an extraordinary year, reflecting hope, compassion and grief. As part of this, we will cover a special Evensong from St Paul’s Cathedral on 8th December, including the lighting of the dome in yellow to reflect the Good Grief campaign

·         An extra series of Sunday Worship is set to broadcast on BBC One, from the first Sunday of Advent into the New Year, plus live services for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on BBC One as well as Carols from King’s on BBC Two

·         Radio 4 will broadcast live the yearly Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College Cambridge, as well as Midnight Mass later in the evening. On Christmas Day listeners can join in a Christmas Service from their homes, recorded at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London

·         The Service on the BBC Scotland channel will broadcast religious services weekly from different faiths across Scotland. Reflections at the Quay returns for a new series on BBC One Scotland allowing people of faith to come together and commune in the act of fellowship. Radio Wales will broadcast a special live choral performance for Christmas Eve with Only Men Aloud.

·         The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year’s Day message and the new series of The Big Questions explore the ethical and religious issues of the day, reflecting the pandemic and what it means for our society. 

For the British Forces Broadcasting Service Christmas Takeover Radio 1 is going to hand over four hours of Christmas Day to four bases around the world to give their troops the opportunity to send Christmas messages to their families back at home in the UK.

Over Christmas, BBC local radio will bring listeners a series of exclusive interviews with some of the most famous music stars in the world plus a number of special carol concerts to ensure everyone can still enjoy the sound of Christmas this year. With listeners separated from loved ones, local radio will connect families and friends spread out across the country through a new project called ‘Send a Christmas Hug’, with listeners recording special messages for family members for broadcast on local radio and regional TV.

BBC Arts continues Culture in Quarantine, which has been bringing arts and culture into the country’s homes while supporting the hard-hit organisations and artists who create it. With a special focus on theatre in the New Year, we are working with more than a dozen theatres across the UK to light up new productions of plays that speak to the diversity and creativity of modern Britain for broadcast across television, radio and our digital services.

3.        Entertaining our audiences

As we head towards what might be a very different festive season, the BBC will keep people entertained, providing laughter, escapism, companionship and a virtual celebration of traditional festivities.

Since it is unlikely people will be able to go to big parties and gatherings, BBC One plans to do all it can to help people celebrate at home by creating a unique New Year’s Eve night of programming – The Big New Year’s In. A live entertainment show will run throughout the evening packed with famous faces, and an unforgettable concert leads up to a very special midnight celebration that the BBC has exclusive access to. BBC Scotland celebrates a special Hogmanay 2020, hosted by Susan Calman.

With no pantos or Christmas parties this year, CBeebies and CBBC are doing their bit to create some stay-at-home fun. Families can join in with the CBeebies Christmas in Storyland show with a mass pyjama party across the country.

To laugh in the New Year, we are launching a winter comedy season, including a live stand-up TV series from across the UK, plus a series of stand-up specials on Radio 4. The nation’s favourite Vicar, Geraldine Grainger (Dawn French) of the Parish of Dibley returns on BBC One for three new shows – 10-minute sermons on life and chocolate, written during lockdown and post-lockdown and pre-another lockdown and delivered to her parishioners via Zoom (when she can make it work that is). BBC One Northern Ireland has Christmas specials of comedies The Paddy Raff Show and Give My Head Peace.

Returning favourites on TV in the period up to the end of March include His Dark Materials, Doctor Who, Line of Duty and Call the Midwife, alongside Top Gear, Great British Sewing Bee, The Repair Shop, and Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Sir David Attenborough’s five-part landmark series A Perfect Planet launches on BBC One in the New Year.

On radio, all BBC Pop stations are staging Christmas House Party, each having a room at the party and using their output to provide that room’s soundtrack. BBC Sounds is hosting a second series of Radio 4’s Grounded with Louis Theroux and Radio 2 celebrates the world of musical theatre in January with a season of special programming. BBC Sounds will also provide the musical support our audiences might need to make the most of a more home-based festive season with classic tracks and mixes to help manage mood or make an occasion, together with unique mixes led by our talent.

Over the next few months, BBC iPlayer provides the nation with entertaining, informative and educational television, all available on demand, wherever you are, whatever your age:

·         The comedy offer includes hit series such as This Country, The Young Offenders, Ghosts, Fleabag, Mrs Brown’s Boys, Man Like Mobeen, Famalam, Sara Pascoe’s Out of Her Mind, What We Do In The Shadows, Better Things, Twenties, Shrill, Awkwafina is Nora from Queens, Good Trouble and the HBO series Love Life

·         The classic comedy selection includes full series of Gavin and Stacey, The Real McCoy, The Vicar of Dibley, The Catherine Tate Show, Citizen Khan, The Royle Family, Outnumbered, Blackadder, Gimme Gimme Gimme and The Kumars at No. 42

·         For drama, BBC iPlayer is the only place to enjoy full boxsets of Line of Duty, Killing Eve, His Dark Materials, Normal People, Noughts and Crosses, Get Even, I May Destroy You, The Salisbury Poisonings, Fort Salem, Devs, Mrs America and The Secrets She Keeps

·         Returning drama favourites include The Split and Strike along with recent additions like Harlots, Us, Life and Roadkill. These join classic sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica and Heroes, as well as thrilling dramas from recent years such as Luther, The Fall, Sherlock and Doctor Foster with some classic dramas to be added before Christmas with Upstairs Downstairs, Dickensian, Oliver Twist and Bleak House

·         Documentary boxsets include Once Upon a Time in Iraq joined by the inside story of the Trump presidency in The Trump Show, The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty, Thatcher: A Very British Revolution and a huge selection of the best international documentaries in the BBC’s Storyville collection; as well as boxsets of Louis Theroux and Stacey Dooley. BBC iPlayer hosts a collection of Sir David Attenborough’s finest work, including Blue Planet I & II, Planet Earth I & II and Dynasties. Cooking in lockdown will become easier with all episodes of the new series Nadiya Bakes and Nigella: At My Table. And iPlayer features everyone from Keith Floyd to Rick Stein; Fanny Craddock to Lorraine Pascale.

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