A new multi-million-pound fund to help increase the range of children’s television in the UK has been announced by Culture Secretary Karen Bradley.
The £60 million (€67.5m) fund will be available for content creators to receive up to 50 per cent of the production and distribution costs of original TV shows.
It will be available for content broadcast on commercial Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs), as well as for other free and widely available channels and on-demand platforms, and potentially also online.
According to the Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport, over the past decade, the output of children’s television from PSBs in the UK has been in decline, with spending falling by £55 million. This investment will aim to help reverse that trend and is the first of its kind to specifically focus on children’s television.
The fund will also help to stimulate greater variety in a market where the BBC is often the dominant buyer and broadcaster of children’s content. In 2016, the BBC accounted for 87 per cent of all first-run, UK-originated children’s programming by PSBs.
The fund will complement other measures taken by government in this area, including the introduction of a children’s TV tax break and new powers given to Ofcom.
“High quality children’s television is not only entertaining but plays a vital role in stimulating learning and giving young people a greater understanding of the world around them,” noted Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said. “This significant investment will give our world-renowned television production sector the boost it needs to create innovative content for a wider audience that would otherwise not be made.”
“The Children’s Media Foundation welcomes the confirmation that the new Contestable Content Fund will focus on the children’s audience,” added Anna Home OBE, Chair of the Children’s Media Foundation. “It’s a much-needed stimulus for the UK’s children’s media-makers and we hope it will bring new and exciting content for children of all ages that could not otherwise have been commissioned.”
According to John McVay, Chief Executive of independent producers’ trade association PACT, the body had long campaigned for increased investment in original children’s content to incentivise new entrants to the market. “This along with the introduction of the PSB criteria through the Digital Economy Act, will encourage the commercial PSBs back to the table and foster new talent,” he added.
The cash will be distributed over three years as part of a pilot starting in 2019. Programmes from new and diverse backgrounds, and those made in the nations and regions, will be a particular focus.
The funding for the pilot has been made available as a result of unspent funds from the previous BBC licence fee settlement.
The BFI (British Film Institute) has been provisionally appointed as administrator for the fund, and will work with government on its final design, including whether the fund should include other genres in its scope.
A detailed policy paper will be published in 2018 setting out how the fund will work, with the first awards distributed from the beginning of 2019/20.