Coronavirus crisis: What are the backup plans for TV channels?

Debarati Palit Singh
Wednesday, 18 March 2020

As shooting will be stalled till March 31, Sakal Times finds out what kind of backup plan do broadcasters and producers have for their viewers.

The Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA), Producers Guild of India and Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees (FWICE) had decided to put production and shooting of TV fictional and reality shows on hold from March 19 to 31. The step had been taken to curb the spread of Coronavirus (COVID 19). But going by the developments on Wednesday, instead of March 19, shooting will be stopped from today. Confirming the news, producer Vipul Shah said that they have received a circular which says that shooting will have to stop from March 18. “We wish to inform all our members that we received a call from Hon Mr Aditya Thackeray, Cabinet Minister of Tourism and Environment Government of Maharashtra. He instructed that all shootings in any format shall be stopped as soon as possible. He also informed that official communication to the broadcasters will be sent soon,” the circular read.
“In view of the above, it was discussed and decided on a conference call with broadcasters that all shootings should be wound up asap. All producers are requested to wind up their shooting ASAP or else it can have legal implications. Please note that due to the urgency, the earlier communication to stop shooting from 19th March, 2020 is revoked and no shooting shall take place from tomorrow onwards. As this is a matter concerned with our safety and health, please follow the instructions scrupulously and cooperate with the efforts of the Government to combat the COVID 19,” it further read. 

With no shooting for next 10-12 days, what will the ‘viewer’ get to watch on television? 
Sources from the TV industry and different channels inform that they are banking on reruns, old serials and special episodes for the next few days. 

TV channels aren’t coming forward with their action plan. “Channels are still figuring out what kind of content they are going to air for the audience. They are having closed door meetings and will take a decision soon,” said a source close to one of the channels. 

J D Majethia, producer, Bhakharwadi which airs on SAB TV, said that channels have to repeat old episodes because they have no other choice. “What else can we do. We are going to repeat our old episodes till we start shooting. But we aren’t complaining because this is the need of the hour. Safety of the people is of utmost importance,” said Majethia. 

Vipul, whose two shows are on air including Tera Kya Hoga Alia and Balveer Returns, said that most production houses have a bank of episodes for five days. “So, they will air episodes for next five days but after that, they have to take  a call. As far as my shows are concerned, we have a bank of episodes of Tera Kya Hoga Alia till March 31 and of Balveer Returns till March 25.”
A source from Colors channel said that they have a bank of episodes of two of their serials. “We have a bank of episodes for Barrister Babu and Vidya, which will continue for next one week. After that, the makers of these shows will take a call. As for the other shows, we will have reruns,” added the source. 

Sources from Sony Entertainment channel said that they have a bank of episodes for their weekend shows. “The makers have episodes for next two weeks. But that is not the case with the fictional shows. They are taking a call on what they want to run,” said a source.
Many confirm that production houses have also shot special episodes, which are a huge hit among the audience. “Many of the shows have already shot the one hour special episodes.” 

Vipul added that it’s the decision of the broadcasters as to what they want to air on television. “It’s not the producer’s call,” he added. 

In spite of the challenges, producers, actors and sources close to channels believe that the decision to stall the shooting is the right one because human lives are at stake.  “Yes, it’s a necessary step.
The producers had been debating about it since last week. It’s not just about the shoots, there are broadcasters and channels involved in this too. Thankfully, they are cooperating as well. Everyone is coming together for everyone else,” said Amir Jaffar, producer of Qurbaan Hua and Tujh Se Hai Rabaata on Zee TV.

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