Report: Young Audiences Content Fund ‘a success’
January 13, 2023
By Colin Mann
The BFI has published the final evaluation findings for the Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF), which concluded its three-year pilot in 2022. The findings from the independent evaluation details the success of the pilot, with 61 new commissions for young audiences supported and 160 development projects backed over the course of the three years.
The YACF, which was managed by the BFI and funded by the UK Government via the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), supported the development and production of new, unique and distinctive, UK-made content, on public service broadcasters and platforms, for young audiences in the UK.
The evaluation report – created by external consultancy Bigger Picture Research – outlines how the YACF demonstrated social and economic value. The Fund proved an effective lever in delivering high quality public service content for young audiences across different genres and techniques, contributing to a more plural landscape in the industry and directly encouraged additional investment for projects, targeting this age group. The Fund helped to address key deficiencies identified by Ofcom’s Children’s Content Review, including the lack of original, high-quality programmes for older children across all genres; the limited range of programmes that help children understand the world; the limited range of original, high-quality programmes that enable children to see their lives on screen. It also addressed a lack of animated content for older children and teenagers, which had been reported by Animation UK.
Key findings of the evaluation included:
- The Fund effectively delivered on its aims and was found to be efficient, economic and fair.
- The YACF supported 61 brand new productions for young audiences in the UK. The programmes that have transmitted to date have enjoyed ratings success, secured a total of 36 national and international prestigious industry award nominations – with a total of 14 winners – and 13 of those shows have been recommissioned.
- It supported the development of 160 new projects, of which just over 9 per cent have since been commissioned for broadcast to date (higher than the average 5 per cent industry standard).
- The minimum Gross Value Added* (GVA) from awarded projects is estimated at £319.6 million (€359.6m) between 2019 and 2027 from a YACF investment of just over £40 million (which with other funding sources contributed to production activity worth c.£100 million), and programmes with international sales have a potential forecast between £23.7 million and £40.3 million over the next 15 years.
- *GVA was estimated after removing broadcaster licence fees, which were already ring-fenced for spend on new young audiences’ content. The GVA figure does not include development activity or spill over impacts from tourism and merchandising.
- Audience research has revealed an appetite for and a robust appreciation of programmes that reflect the lives of young audiences in the UK – 83 per cent of young people surveyed thought YACF supported shows looked well-made and 75 per cent said they would like to see more shows like them.
- 71 per cent of development and production spend was located outside of London and the South East, on programmes reflecting life and telling stories from all around the UK. 10 per cent of production awards and 7 per cent of development awards supported new content in indigenous languages (Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Welsh).
- All production projects achieved the minimum requirement of meeting criteria of at least two BFI Diversity Standards, and every development project met at least one of the Standards, whilst Inclusion Targets for the involvement of new voices in projects were met in full.
- All the UK’s main commercial public service broadcasters and indigenous language channels were involved in funded projects, boosting plurality in the young audiences’ content sector.
- 85 per cent of participating production companies have given examples of the positive impact their YACF award has had on business growth and commercial sustainability, new IP development, reputation building and talent development.
- To date, an estimated 6,976 roles for UK cast and crew were created by projects backed by YACF production and development funding, equating to 185,087 job days
- Commitment to in-work training opportunities plus mandatory contributions to the Skills Investment Fund has helped develop new and existing talent in the sector.
- 87 per cent of YACF-supported production projects and 74 per cent of development projects involved at least one type of innovation in either their content, production methods or distribution, discoverability and engagement techniques.
- Every YACF-supported project met at least two additionality arguments, most commonly that the usual sources of finance had already contributed to their limits and therefore YACF awards were essential to completing financing packages.
“We were proud to deliver the Young Audiences Content Fund pilot, and the evaluation demonstrates how successfully the team – expertly headed up by Jackie Edwards – delivered to the Fund’s ambitions and priorities,” stated Ben Roberts, BFI CEO. “The Fund leaves a legacy of excellent, award-winning programming that showcases UK creativity both at home and internationally, as well as having a hugely positive impact on our young audiences.”
“The evaluation has evidenced the transformational effect of the Young Audience Content Fund on a failing sector and has shown the positive economic, social, and cultural impact that targeted resource can have in delivering much needed public service television for children and teens,” added Jackie Edwards, Head of the Young Audiences Content Fund. “The Fund has stimulated commissioning of beautiful new content across all genres and for all young audiences, representing young lives from all across the UK. Moreover, these programmes have been much appreciated by the audiences they were made for. The Fund has underlined the need for focussed intervention to support content that specifically resonates and reflects, nourishes and supports, entertains, educates and inspires our young audiences – they deserve nothing less.”
Detailing the Fund’s high level of industry engagement, underlined by the 576 applications it received, the report confirms that with a total spend of £44.1 million, the YACF supported 61 new productions, equating to 287 hours of high-quality, UK commissioned content. As well as converting 9 per cent of its 160 development projects into broadcast commissions, the YACF also saw 13 shows recommissioned across three years.
The report states: “The YACF pilot provided proof of concept that highly targeted contestable funding, administered with rigour within a clear framework of strategic priorities, is capable of delivering social and economic value as intended.”
The YACF has backed critically acclaimed and award-winning series such as COP26: In Your Hands (Sky Kids), Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared (Channel 4), Big Boys (Channel 4), The World According To Grampa (Milkshake!), Teen First Dates (E4), Generation Genome (KMTV), Ted’s Top Ten (CITV), Makeaway Takeaway (CITV), Mimi’s World (Channel 5’s Milkshake!), Meet The Experts (Milkshake!), Go Green With the Grimwades (Milkshake!) and Tell Me Everything (ITVX), as well as projects in indigenous languages such as Run (BBC ALBA), Lachlan Boy at the Top (BBC ALBA) and Sol — a film on grief created for the Celtic language channels ITG4 (Irish), BBC ALBA (Scottish Gaelic) and S4C (Welsh).
This year, final awards included Dance School (w/t), a new 8×30’ coming-of-age drama series from Duck Soup Films for Channel 4, and two shows for Milkshake!; Tweedy and Fluff, a stop-motion animated comedy, and MixMups, an animated pre-school series featuring a joyful on screen representation of disability to feature made by a team with lived experience of disability.
Re-commissions have included a second series of the award winning The World According to Grandpa, a second series of Meet The Experts for Channel 5’s Milkshake!, and a second series of Makeaway Takeaway for CITV.
The Fund was also hugely helpful to the sector more broadly, with an estimated 6,976 roles for UK cast and crew created by YACF supported production and development awards, equating to 185,087 job days. A commitment to in-work training opportunities plus contributions to the Skills Investment Fund helped develop new and existing talent in the sector, whilst 85 per cent of participating companies gave examples of the positive impact their award had on business growth and commercial sustainability, new IP development, reputation building and talent development.
The release of the independent evaluation is accompanied by a final announcement of brand new projects which have benefited from the Fund’s support during the pilot, including a recommission of drama Bex for S4C, an engaging and entertaining drama format which explores relatable topics such as mental health, a companion show to Generation Genome, Generation Why for KMTV, which will explore philosophy, critical thinking and ethics for teens, and Christy Bella – Weaving Time for BBC ALBA, a 15-minute Gaelic documentary following the experiences of a nine-year-old first-time weaver.