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BBC kids exec to head BFI fund

The British Film Institute (BFI) has tapped the BBC’s head of children’s acquisitions and independent animation to oversee its forthcoming £57m (US$73m) young audiences content fund.

Jackie Edwards

Jackie Edwards has been appointed head of the Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF), which launches in April and will offer production and development funding for broadcast on UK public service broadcasters’ (PSBs) channels and platforms.

Edwards will join the BFI in February after more than a decade with the BBC and will be based in Leeds, with the YACF opening for applications in April.

The YACF is being delivered by the BFI as part of the UK government’s support for more “distinct, high-quality content” to be made available for local children and young audiences on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

The YACF is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Contestable Fund, first announced in late 2017, and assigns the BFI up to £57m to deliver over three-years.

Edwards will report to BFI deputy CEO, Ben Roberts, and work on the final design and implementation of the fund.

Details known so far are that it will support original programming, in both live-action and animation, and across genres including education, fiction and drama, arts and culture, factual, and religion.

The fund will offer production funding for projects that have secured a broadcast commitment from a UK PSB to make the programme available to a UK audience on a free-to-access service regulated by UK media regulator Ofcom.

Development funding will be available to support new voices and emerging producers, for which a broadcaster commitment is not necessary.

One of the priorities of the fund is to support content which is “reflective of UK cultural identity and the nations and regions – both on screen and off screen – with a commitment to support content in UK indigenous languages,” the BFI said.

Edwards has been the BBC’s head of children’s acquisitions and independent animation since 2015, delivering programming for 0-16 year olds. She joined the BBC in 2008 as CBeebies content manager and later as executive producer, working on programmes including Tree Fu Tom, Octonauts, Bing, Rastamouse and Clangers.

Prior to the BBC, Edwards was a freelancer, working on the development, finance and production of shows for companies such as Lego, CBBC, Three Stones Media and Mackinnon & Saunders. She started her television career in animation in 1995 as a production assistant with Hibbert Ralph Entertainment (later Silver Fox Films).

Ben Roberts, BFI’s deputy CEO said: “Jackie’s passion for public service broadcasting, and her extensive experience in original and high quality programmes for young people of all ages, made her the perfect choice to help us shape and deliver the fund.”

“The landscape for television audiences is evolving at speed, but the appetite for innovative, relevant material which speaks to today’s young people feels as strong as ever. In supporting the UK’s world class indie sector, and working with broadcasters, I’m confident that Jackie and her new team will create something potentially game changing.”

Edwards added: “While I will be sad to leave BBC Children’s, the role of head of YACF was simply irresistible as it presents a unique opportunity to revivify and diversify the kids public service broadcast landscape in the UK.”

Figures released by Ofcom in 2017 highlighted that the amount of original programming for kids on UK channels was at its lowest level since 1998, with such content made by commercial PSBs falling by 93% since legislative changes in the early 2000s.

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