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ITV gets Ant & Dec to pause live TV with message of support for housebound viewers

ITV paused live TV on Saturday (21 March) to bring a message of support to its socially distancing viewers throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Delivered by Ant & Dec, the break in programming fell under the broadcaster's five-year mental wellness campaign – Britain Get Talking.

People across the country are currently being encouraged to stay indoors to prevent the spread of the virus. Yet while it is in everyone’s best interest, cooping up feels unnatural, and has a knock-on effect on many people’s mental wellbeing.

To help combat this, ITV addressed the 9.5 million viewers who tuned in to watch weekend’s episode of Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, taking a moment after the show to remind people to stay indoors, keep talking and look after each other.

Using the hashtag #BritainGetTalking and tagging @itv, Ant and Dec encouraged viewers to share messages of love and support across social media. A selection of these messages will be played on ITV every day in an effort to keep spirits high across the country.

Devised by Uncommon, the campaign has kicked off with messages from famous faces including Davina McCall, Alex Beresford and soap stars Lisa Riley, Ali Mardell, Sam Aston, Ryan Prescott, Chris Bisson, Dolly Rose Campbell and Michelle Hardwick.

Susanna Reid and Gordon Ramsay also wished all mothers, including their own, a happy Mother’s Day on Sunday.

“Physical isolation doesn’t have to mean social isolation,” explained Claire Philips, director of social purpose for ITV. "Britain has never needed to connect more, and through Britain Get Talking we want to use ITV to help people feel good, talk more and establish a feeling of unity through these challenging and unprecedented times.

"Hearing someone’s voice is a proven means of decreasing anxiety and stress, so we want to encourage more talking and more connecting.”

The campaign is once again supported by YoungMinds and Mind, who are helping with ITV's five-year mental wellness campaign.

ITV first launched Get Britain Talking last October during the Britain’s Got Talent final.

As the final reached its climax, hosts Ant and Dec turned to the camera, calling a halt to the proceedings. Addressing the viewers, they invited them to turn their attention away from the acts competing for the BGT crown and to focus instead on one another, letting mental wellness take centre stage.

The campaign continued later that month in print.

Replicating ripped out TV listings, placed against a blank, negative space ITV replaced programme guides' copy with notes of compassion from loved ones when we talk to one another, such as, 'Everyone Messes Up Sometimes, Just Look At Auntie Linds.'

Nils Leonard, co-founder of Uncommon, said: “ITV have always created more than TV. And in a time when we have never needed each other more, putting people among the programming they love is a meaningful and powerful act. We are apart but never alone.”

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