Live audiences canned and productions paused: COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the TV industry

Exposure to the cornavirus has shut down the production on Seven’s Big Brother. Ten’s second season of Australian Survivor can’t film under current travel restrictions and Rita Wilson’s appearance on Nine’s Today Extra resulted in staff self-isolating. Here’s how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting Australian TV production.

This weekend the ABC denied it would be cancelling Foreign Correspondent after reports the show would cease during the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, the broadcaster said the outbreak was making international newsgathering “difficult” but that the ABC News teams were “meeting the challenges”.

“Many program episodes for the current season have already been shot, and we are also able to revisit and update previous stories,” read the statement.


“As a result, we can confirm Foreign Correspondent will be completing its full season this year. There is no suggestion of the program being cancelled.”

The broadcaster is also working closely with its international correspondents to ensure their safety during the spread of the virus, it says. The ABC has already announced it will suspend all audiences for live or in-studio broadcasting, reduce the number of guests attending studios and postpone live concerts for its children’s programming.

ABC chair Ita Buttrose told The Sydney Morning Herald the virus may change the way the ABC works for the better, with domestic and international travel banned and replaced with Skype meetings.

It has been announced the ABC will continue broadcasting despite the measures announced yesterday by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, with the news service deemed an ‘essential service’.


Ten’s Australian Survivor has been postponed, with the season unable to continue as it usually films in Fiji. The season was the second of two planned for the year. Ten has also announced The Amazing Race Australia will only film domestically in 2020, although that announcement was made before the government put domestic travel restrictions in place.

Survivor host Jonathan LaPaglia did have to miss the finale of the All Stars season due to being stuck in the US.

Photo: Nigel Wight Australian Survivor: All Stars host Jonathan LaPaglia missed the finale of the show due to quarantine restrictions

Dancing With The Stars contestant Christian Wilkins was forced to perform his dance on the rooftop of the Ten studios last night. He is in self-isolation, along with dance partner Lily Cornish, after his father Richard Wilkins tested positive for the virus. DWTS is also currently airing without a studio audience.


Ten has also postponed production on Five Bedrooms, and Neighbours was shut down for self-isolation, before beginning filming again last week with minimal crew.

A Network Ten spokesperson says: “We continue to work hard to make sure Australians receive detailed and regular information about this rapidly evolving situation. We are also working closely with all of our production partners to ensure we maintain production continuity as far as it is possible.

“The health and safety of our people and teams is our number one priority. We are committed to keeping our audiences entertained and connected in these challenging times. It is important to us that we ensure the continuity of employment for our production partners and that the industry remains in as strong a shape as possible so we can continue to bring Australian viewers local content.”


Seven has struggled with production issues due to the virus outbreak also. Production was ceased on Big Brother after a crew member was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Host Sonia Kruger has tried to stress that the contestants on the show are well protected from the virus.

Holey Moley has also paused its production, SAS: Who Dares Wins has stopped filming, as has Australia’s Got Talent, and long-running soap Home and Away has also stopped filming. A Seven spokesperson says the decisions made were in the best interest of the cast and crew.

Production has ceased on Big Brother

“Seven Studios advised today that it would halt filming of Home and Away immediately,” a Seven spokesperson says.

“It confirmed that no cast or crew had tested positive for COVID-19, but that the decision was made due to the increasing logistical hurdles related to the COVID-19 situation.”

Seven has also lost its big winter sport with the AFL 2020 season being postponed until at least the end of May. The sport was being played to empty stadiums, but AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan made the tough announcement over the weekend that the current government restrictions meant the premiership could not continue for now.

“We fully support the decision of the AFL to suspend the season, in the interest of player and community health and safety. While we’re as disappointed as anyone else, we’ll work with the AFL and our partners to understand best next steps,” says a Seven spokesperson.

Seven is currently awaiting news on the future of the Olympics, with the International Olympic Committee giving itself four weeks to make a decision.

Seven has also lost its Sunrise co-host Samantha Armytage, who has taken leave due to an ongoing respiratory illness, which she says is related to her work during Australia’s bushfire crisis.


As of yet, the NRL has not been stopped, with CEO Todd Greenberg saying the current plan is to adhere to all restrictions and play on. Nine is the free to air (FTA) broadcast partner for the NRL.

At Nine, production is currently continuing on The Block, but non-essential visitors to the set have been banned.

Rita Wilson’s appearance on Today Extra, which wreaked havoc across the Nine studios and resulted in a positive COVID-19 diagnosis for Richard Wilkins, put several staff members into self-isolation, including Australian Ninja Warrior’s Rebecca Maddern. She has since been cleared of the virus.

Nine News has suspended its regional bulletins, but a coronavirus-focused news special each weeknight is delivering consistent ratings for the broadcaster.

Rita Wilson’s appearance on Today Extra caused panic when she was subsequently diagnosed with coronavirus

Filming on The Voice was delayed as its hosts were forced into self-isolation related to travel, but the show is reported to still be on track.

“The filming of The Voice has been temporarily postponed in the wake of the coronavirus and new government protocols,” a spokesperson says in a statement.

“The show is still currently on track to begin airing in its originally planned timeframe, which will be announced in the coming months.”

The Australian reports international celebrity judges Boy George and Kelly Rowland will need to be replaced in later episodes due to travel bans.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.