The search for “the next big thing” in UK Children’s Television is gearing up as part of a £60 million initiative being introduced by Government to support the nation’s vibrant broadcast sector. Minister for Digital Margot James has announced that the Contestable Fund which aims to halt the decline of UK produced children’s content and reverse the growing trend of airing repeats, will also include more support for programming in indigenous UK languages such as Welsh and Gaelic, a multi-million pound boost for commercial radio and a special fund to help fledgling production companies develop and pitch their original ideas to make them a reality.
In December 2017 plans for a pilot fund were announced and following further engagement with industry including broadcasters, producers and other interested parties the final elements of the initiative have been unveiled. See them here.
Minister for Digital Margot James said, “young people in the UK deserve high quality content that entertains, informs and reflects their experiences growing up across the country today. The UK broadcasting and production sectors are world renowned, and a success story to be proud of. This innovative project is an instrumental part of our support for the UK’s vibrant media sector and will help it continue to go from strength to strength.”
Production levels of new children’s content have declined over the past decade, with public service broadcasters spending roughly 40% less than they did in 2006. As a result a significant amount of children’s programming on children’s channels now consist of repeats.
In 2016, 98% of children’s content on commercial children’s channels and 91% on public service broadcasters were repeats. To directly combat this decline in content for younger people in the UK, £57 million will be invested in to a Young Audiences Content Fund, administered by the BFI. This will focus on funding a new influx of creative and distinctive content that represent UK children and teenagers today. Five per cent of the Young Audiences fund will support production companies develop their ideas.
Additional features of the £60 million Contestable Fund include a welcome boost to indigenous UK languages programming, with an aim to invest five per cent of the total fund on this. Ben Roberts, Director of Lottery Film Fund, BFI has said “We’re excited to be working with Government to deliver the new Young Audiences Content Fund to help support UK companies to create exciting and distinctive new programmes for young people. It goes hand-in-hand with the BFI’s own mission to connect audiences with the widest possible range of content. We look forward to making the most of this new opportunity to back talent to create bold and original programming and expand the choices available for young people.
John McVay OBE, Chief Executive of PACT also weighed in, saying “Pact welcomes the contestable fund pilot and is pleased that the government has listened to industry feedback to help shape the fund. Pact championed the need for development funding and the focus on children’s content and is pleased this has been recognised. This will help bring new voices into the industry and people’s lives.”
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