Channel 4 Factual Slate to Focus on Frontline of Coronavirus Crisis


Channel 4

Channel 4 has today announced a slate of factual and current affairs commissions that follow the human stories of those on the frontline of the Coronavirus pandemic and the scientists and experts racing to tackle it.

Later this month, Channel 4 will air a special show in which leading scientists around the world will debate key questions about the origin of the virus, how it should be tackled and how it will affect our lives for months to come. Pandemic: Can science beat Coronavirus? will provide a straight-talking, fact-based discussion on the crisis.

NHS Heroes will follow a small group of frontline staff as they self-film their daily lives battling the virus. The hour-long film will tell the remarkable and inspiring stories of bravery and dedication, as well as highlighting the challenges our NHS heroes face every day.

The award-winning director of Prison, Paddy Wivell, will spend the next few months in lockdown documenting the impact of the crisis on his own neighbourhood for Corona Street, a film that will explore and capture how self-isolation and social distancing is affecting communities.

And we ask What did South Korea get right? in a one-off film looking at the country’s astonishing approach to mass testing and contact tracing in order to avoid a UK-style lockdown.

Ian Katz, Channel 4 Director of Programmes said: “Our first slate of commissions responding to the crisis, under the Lockdown Academy strand, was designed to help viewers negotiate the challenges of isolation and being stuck at home with family. I hope these new films will bring viewers up close with the extraordinary bravery, dedication and humanity of those on the frontline of the battle against Coronavirus, as well as capturing the way in which the crisis has been reshaping our communities.

“Reflecting the full impact of the Covid 19 pandemic and helping our viewers through it is one of the biggest challenges public service broadcasters have ever faced. These challenges are particularly acute for commercial broadcasters who are experiencing huge disruption to their revenues, but we believe it is vital to keep serving our audiences with shows that help them both understand and withstand the most severe global crisis of the modern era.

We are hugely appreciative of the imagination and resilience of our colleagues in the production sector in helping us find ways to tell these urgent stories despite the huge challenges they face themselves.”


Prod Co: Story Films

Commissioning Editor: Danny Horan


At 8pm on March 26th, the Thursday of the first week of the UK lockdown, millions of people across Britain stood on their doorsteps and applauded front line NHS workers. We’ve always had a special relationship with NHS frontline staff, but the crisis we’re now facing has shown us all how much we’ve come to rely on them and how much they put on the line for us. As Britain locks down, thousands of already stretched frontline NHS workers are entering the fray – whether working in overwhelmed hospitals, COVID-19 wards, or other vital roles like community midwives, GPs, or community nurses.

NHS HEROES will follow a small group of these frontline workers over this unprecedented time in our history. They will tell their remarkable and inspiring stories by filming themselves, each other and their family and friends. This is a film that celebrates bravery, compassion and dedication as we see the truth of what is happening in hospital “red zones”, as staff risk infection, work exhausting shifts - often without being able to get food and essentials for their own families. As most of us are locked-in with our loved ones, many NHS workers have had to move away from vulnerable family members, or simply don’t have time to see them. Keeping us alive has become their priority. What’s it like to be a parent sending their newly-qualified son or daughter into a Covid19 ward, a retired doctor or nurse returning to the frontline or a porter moving infected patient, after infected patient? Imagine being the consultant who must strip and scrub themselves when returning home, before they can kiss their child... The challenges are endless for frontline staff: exhaustion, working without sufficient personal protective equipment, or self-isolating because they can't be tested. As we get further into this national crisis, we’ll see the story evolve from the inside, from the perspective of the people fighting to keep us alive. This is their film, their story and they’re the ones filming.

Danny Horan, Head of Factual said: “Last week the British public stood united to clap and show gratitude for the NHS. This series takes a front seat showing us the challenges they face every day in the battle against Coronavirus. We celebrate their dedication and see the true nature of their sacrifice, with many having to be away from their own families to keep the British public safe. Shining a light on our NHS heroes fighting on the frontline.”


Production Company: Voltage

Commissioning Editor: Fatima Salaria

TX: April

Channel 4 hosts a special debate about the pandemic with only scientists on the panel. As Britain increasingly looks beyond politics to science for reassurance about how and when the crisis will end, this special one-off event will bring together experts to take part in a straight-talking, fact-based discussion providing scientific answers to the most difficult questions. A virologist will be grilled about the search for a vaccine e.g. Why does it take so long to create one? And how on earth will we make enough to give to the entire world’s population? We’ll get an epidemiologist to answer the inconsistencies about the data - is the death rate 10 percent or no worse than seasonal flu… and why, for instance, is South Korea doing so well but Spain faring badly? The discussion will take in the psychology of isolation, the technical issues behind mass production of ventilators, and - crucially - provide a politics and spin-free hour in which viewers are invited to take a deep dive into the fascinating science behind this extraordinary outbreak.

Fatima Salaria, Head of Specialist Factual said: “A remarkable amount of information about the Covid-19 virus has been unearthed in record time – including its full genetic code – but there remains a lot of vital unanswered questions. At the heart of this debate are the new rock stars, Scientists and many of them across the globe are battling to find the answers. Science is what everyone is talking about, but there are many conflicting arguments that we want to address that the audience will want to hear, this debate will get to the heart of these questions and dispel any myths surrounding the science, as we unpack the most difficult questions on Coronavirus.”


Prod Co: Five Mile Films Ltd

Commissioning Editor: Alisa Pomeroy


We all know that the Coronavirus has put pressure on the NHS and on key workers, but will the virus also change the way live, congregate, spend time with our families, feel about the world? – And will it transform our values and what really is important to us? The best place to observe that happening is in our homes and communities. Like most people in modern Britain filmmaker Paddy Wivell (Prison, Bedlam) only knows a handful of people among the diverse and varied hundreds who live on his street. He will use this moment of social distancing and self-isolation to try to get to know them better, and to experience what will be a sad and extraordinary summer with them, finding out about their fears and life thoughts and seeing how the virus effects and transforms his neighbours and the community. Will social isolation breed suspicion and prejudice, or could it bring a community much closer together?

Award-winning documentary director Paddy Wivell said: “All over Britain a time of self-isolation has begun and with it a recalibration of what is important in life. I want to know how this period of enforced change affects the residents on my street.”


Prod Co: Quick Silver

Commissioning Editor: Siobhan Sinnerton


Late February saw cases of the virus in South Korea explode but within weeks the numbers halved and kept halving. What did South Korea Get Right? reveals a story of careful planning, mass testing and contact tracing on an astonishing scale, using tracking apps, credit card data and even car GPS systems. It allowed South Korea to avoid a UK-style lockdown and economic devastation. But even the Korean strategy came close to failure as members of a secretive religious sect became virus super-spreaders, infecting thousands of people. With countries across the world failing to control the spread, will South Korea hold off a second wave of infection or is some form of lockdown inevitable? This film explores what the UK might have done to beat coronavirus but didn’t, and what extra lessons the UK can learn from South Korea.

Siobhan Sinnerton, commissioning editor said: “At a time of great uncertainty and debate about how best to tackle the Covid-19 emergency in Britain, ‘What did South Korea get right?’ takes a look at what we can learn from the country’s successes and failings in its own battle against the virus. Piecing together the key decisions and moments in South Korea’s war on the virus, this film hopes to provide lessons as to how it is possible for a country to really get on top of the emergency.”


Source Channel 4

April 3, 2020 1:05pm ET by Channel 4  


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