Entertainment

Channel 4 explains reason for taking The Steph Show off air

The last instalment from lockdown will be on May 7.

Channel 4’s director of programmes has explained the decision to take Steph McGovern’s show off air, saying the broadcaster has “stretched the patience of the neighbours long enough”.

McGovern was originally due to host her daily lunchtime programme The Steph Show from a studio in Leeds, but instead launched it from her living room in Harrogate because of the coronavirus crisis.

Channel 4 also brought the air date forward, saying it hoped it would bring some positivity into the lives of viewers.

However, McGovern has since confirmed that the show will be paused from May 7 to “give my family our home back”, until it is safe to film in the studio as intended.

Speaking during a controller session at the Edinburgh TV Festival, which is taking place online this year, Ian Katz said: “We were due to start the show in mid to late April.

“When the crisis really intensified it was pretty clear we were not going to be able to make the show we intended to make, which was with a big audience in a studio in Leeds and with lots of activities like cooking and co-hosts and all sorts of things that were never going to be possible.

“It was also clear Steph was a perfect presenter for this crisis, she has got the warmth and journalistic skills to speak to different aspects of what was going on and was uniquely able to get at that hankering that people had for some positivitity and celebration of some of the good things that are emerging out of this, so we felt it was a real priority to get that show up early.”

He added: “I am super proud we got it up and running, I can’t think  of anyone else who could broadcast for six consecutive weeks live from their kitchen with a young baby, it’s phenomenal achievement.

“In the end I think we have stretched the patience of the neighbours a bit too far, so we have had to take it off for a while and our decision is just to say we want to wait now until we can get into the studio and produce the show we intended to produce.”

Discussing how the channel has adapted during the crisis, which he described as “the biggest editorial challenge any of us have ever faced in our lives,” he hailed Channel 4 series Gogglebox as one of the “real miracles” as the programme has continued to air.

He said: “Obviously the first things to go were the productions abroad in particular in places where the coronavirus epidemic had moved on a few weeks from us… then some of the bigger productions where you had a couple of hundred people on productions… scripted was hit very early on… it quite quickly became a battle to keep key productions up and running.

“And one of the things I’m so proud of is the way we were able to identify key productions for us and keep them on air. One of the real miracles has been the way Gogglebox has stayed on air.”

He detailed how producers have had to install rigs in the contestants’ homes and said crews sit in vans outside of homes to operate cameras. Toilet facilities have also had to be installed outside of every contributor’s home.

The channel previously announced it was cutting its content budget by £150 million in response to the coronavirus crisis and Katz said: “The challenge for us has been how to rise to that editorial challenge at the same time as saving a huge amount of money, while keeping the channel in the business of commissioning.”

He added the channel would have to produce “lower tariff” shows in a bid to save money, saying he has already been impressed by the “incredible flexibility and ingenuity for making shows at whatever target we can produce at the moment”.

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