Question Time to go ahead during coronavirus outbreak - without a studio audience

PUBLISHED: 10:00 18 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:09 18 March 2020

Fiona Bruce introduces Question Time. Photograph: BBC.

Fiona Bruce introduces Question Time. Photograph: BBC.

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The BBC has announced plans to scale back some of its news services as it focuses on ‘core’ output amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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The corporation’s director of news Fran Unsworth said that these are “unprecedented and difficult days”.

The broadcaster will be operating a “core news service” on the BBC News Channel which will replace some scheduled programmes on BBC Two, including Politics Live and Victoria Derbyshire.

The Andrew Neil Show, Newswatch, The Travel Show and Hardtalk are being suspended.

Question Time will continue to be broadcast at 8pm on Thursdays, however there will be no studio audience “for a period”, according to the BBC.

Audiences will instead be asked to remotely submit their questions for guests to answer.

Newsnight and The Andrew Marr Show will remain on air, however they will be operated by fewer technical staff.

The BBC’s Newscast podcast will change into a daily edition of The Coronavirus Podcast, while Americast, Beyond Today and The Next Episode will be suspended.

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Unsworth said: “These are unprecedented and difficult days.

“Trusted, accurate information is vital in a public health emergency and the BBC has a key role to play.

“We will continue offering our audience continuous news service on TV, radio and online but this will look a bit different in the weeks ahead.

“Like many organisations we are unable to have all our staff on site due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are therefore making some changes to what we do to streamline our output to ensure we can work with fewer people and protect the staff who are at work.”

The BBC said that in radio “we believe we can protect much of our regular, trusted output at this point - though we are keeping the situation under close review and will be making some initial changes”.

On World Service English, The World This Week will be suspended, while World Update and Weekend will be suspended from next week.

BBC Radio 4’s The Week In Westminster will be suspended after March 21.

The broadcaster said it had seen “unprecedented” use of the digital platforms over the last few weeks, adding: “We will be making some changes to the way our teams are organised to sustain these vital services - and to ensure we can distribute important information via social media.”

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