UK: £60m kids content competition  

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The search for ‘the next big thing’ in UK Children’s Television is gearing up as part of a £60 million (€67.5m) initiative being introduced by Government to support the nation’s vibrant broadcast sector.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright 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.

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 per cent 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 per cent of children’s content on commercial children’s channels and 91 per cent on public service broadcasters were repeats. To combat this decline in content for younger people in the UK directly, £57 million will be invested in to a Young Audiences Content Fund. 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.

John McVay OBE, Chief Executive of producers body PACT said: “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.”

Also announced as part of the Contestable Fund is a £3 million Audio Content Fund which will encourage greater innovation and experimentation in the commercial radio sector.

Currently, examples of public service content (aside from national and local news) on commercial radio are rare due to commercial pressures. By removing the necessity for  commercial stations and producers to seek as much sponsorship and advertising revenue, the fund will provide significant support to radio producers to try something different, particularly with new voices who do not have an established relationship with broadcasters and therefore access to funding.

Siobhan Kenny, Chief Executive at Radiocentre, said: “Commercial radio stations are always looking at new ways to serve their listeners, but sometimes the financial reality makes it difficult to do everything they would like. The Audio Content Fund has the potential to provide a significant boost in public service content for audiences, as well as a great opportunity for commercial radio broadcasters to broaden the range of output they provide.”

Further guidance, including how to apply to both of the funds, will be published by the fund administrators in the new year. The pilot will then be open for applications in April 2019.


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