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COBA warns of kids’ channel change threat

Forthcoming Sky kids’ show Moominvalley

The UK’s Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA) has warned that proposals to change kids’ TV channel numbers could undermine investment in new children’s programming.

The association said UK media regulator Ofcom was considering proposals to change ‘prominence’ regulation for children’s TV channels as part of its review into UK children’s content.

COBA said this would mean its members such as Turner and Disney could be forced to take lower positions in the TV programme guide so that BBC Children’s channels can take their places.

This comes despite the fact BBC Children’s channels are already performing successfully, as they are top in their respective demographics, COBA added.

“This would reduce audiences for commercial channels and so reduce their ability to generate a return on their investment in content via subscription and advertising revenues. This would inevitably reduce their ability to invest in new programming,” said COBA.

The association has released research showing that multichannel broadcasters invest more than £15m (US$17.2m) a year in new UK children’s programming. This means they represent one of the biggest sources of investment in local kids’ content outside of the BBC.

The research found that investment in new UK shows from COBA members rose from £7m in 2015 to £23.5m in 2017, averaging at £15.6 million a year over the three-year period. Forthcoming programming from COBA members includes Disney’s 1010 Dalmation Street and Sky’s Moominvalley.

Ofcom’s changes have been proposed as part of its consultation on children’s content, which comes against a backdrop of declining spend on UK children’s content by commercial public service broadcasters and growing competition from online services.

Adam Minns, COBA’s executive director, asked policymakers to “ensure that multichannel broadcasters are able to continue to make this investment and, crucially, not to damage their ability to generate a return on their investment.”

He added: “Since the BBC’s programme budget is determined by the licence fee, the net result of moving BBC channels up the TV guide and commercial channels down will be less investment in British children’s TV.”

“As linear broadcasters, COBA members are already heavily regulated and provide a safe, much valued environment for children. The debate over the future prominence of public service broadcasters in the online world is an important one, and one where, as heavily regulated linear channels ourselves, we share many concerns.

“But that important debate should not be conflated with television broadcasting and end up inadvertently damaging children’s TV. The real issue facing the BBC is not its place in the linear world but its relevance in the online space, which is a challenge that all linear broadcasters share.”

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