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First Dates producers to ban hugging and kissing for upcoming RTÉ series

The new measure aims to allow participants to abide by social distancing rules.

Image: Shutterstock/KieferPix

HUGGING AND KISSING will not be allowed between participants on the set of the upcoming series of RTÉ’s First Dates to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

The measure was confirmed today by the CEO of Coco Content, whose company produces the format series for the national broadcaster.

Couples who find romance on the show often share a kiss or a hug on camera after their date, but Stuart Switzer said they could only blow each other kisses due to social distancing guidelines.

“They must and we must abide by all of the protocols. That is an absolute,” he said.

“Any contact is out. It is challenging but everyone is beginning to realise it is the only way we can work. We will have a safety officer on board for the show who will make sure everyone is abiding by the rules. If they don’t, they are off the set for obvious reasons.

Switzer also revealed that the number of applicants for the 12 episodes of the new series was consistent with last year.

And he believes that the socially distant rules will not reduce the prospects of participants finding romance on the show.

“We are a nation of romantics aren’t we?” he said.

Switzer’s comments come as a new report, the RTÉ Independent Productions Annual Report, shows that Coco Content was one of the big winners in the €40m that was paid to independent productions last year for hours produced for the broadcaster.

The broadcaster is statutorily bound to spend the figure on independent productions each year.

Coco Content also produces Home Rescue and Dermot Bannon’s ‘Room to Improve’.

Other companies to feature prominently in the report include Shinawil for Dancing with the Stars and Vision Independent Productions for Operation Transformation.

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Switzer explained that the €40m was vital to how the industry functioned, saying that independent production companies provide a “phenomenal service” to RTÉ.

He added: “From an independent producer point of view, most of the creative talent lies outside RTÉ and not inside RTÉ in relation to TV production.”

A spokeswoman for RTÉ said the broadcaster was doing all it could to meet its statutory spend obligations with the independent production sector.

“We have continued to commission programming throughout the pandemic while following RTÉ’s working safely protocols, aligned to HSE guidelines, to ensure the safety of staff and crew and the protection of public health,” a statement said.

“The independent production sector are an important partner for RTÉ to ensure that we continue to deliver a diverse range of programming to Irish audiences.

“We are set to announce the autumn season of programmes later this month with a mix of returning favourites and new programmes.”

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Gordon Deegan

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