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UK kids’ TV gets $80m funding boost

The UK government has announced a £60m (US$81.2m) contestable fund to help increase the range of children’s television in the UK.

Karen Bradley

The fund’s design is still in development, but will be available for content broadcast on commercial public service broadcasters (PSBs) ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

It will also be available for content for other channels, on-demand platforms and potentially online.

It follows a decade when the output of children’s television from PSBs in the UK has been in decline, with spending falling by £55m. Pubcaster the BBC accounts for 87% of all first run UK-originated children’s programming by PSBs, leading to numerous campaigns lobbying for change.

Content creators will be able to receive up to 50% of the production and distribution costs of original TV shows using the fund, which was initially proposed in a white paper in May 2016.

The UK government said it is aiming for the fund to complement other measures it has taken to boost domestic kids’ TV, including the introduction of a children’s TV tax break and new powers given to media regulator Ofcom to introduce children’s content quotas on commercial PSBs.

“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,” said UK culture secretary Karen Bradley.

Anna Home OBE, chair of campaign group the Children’s Media Foundation (CMF), added: “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.”

John McVay

John McVay, chief executive of independent producers’ association Pact, added: “Pact has 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.”

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 licence fee settlement.

The British Film Institute (BFI) 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.

The CMF has said the fund should be aimed at “under-served audiences amongst the young,” including the 10+ audience. A specialised fund for children’s content was initially proposed by the CMF, then known as Save Kids TV, in 2007.

Figures such as Teletubbies creator Anne Wood and former ITV programming boss Nigel Pickard signed a letter to the government written by Oli Hyatt, the then-chairman of Animation UK, calling for a contestable fund that would not be drawn from the BBC Children’s budget in 2015.

Ofcom began a review of children’s content delivered by television, on-demand and streaming platforms in the UK at the end of 2017 and is due to publish its findings, alongside any proposed regulatory measures, in the summer.

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