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UK Young Audiences fund launches

The £57m (US$75m) government fund for new TV programming for young audiences in the UK has officially launched and is accepting applications.

Jackie Edwards

The Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF), being administered by the British Film Institute (BFI), is the first of its kind to specifically focus on television for young people under the age of 18.

With former BBC Children’s exec Jackie Edwards at the helm, it has been set up in reaction to the decline in output of children’s television from public service broadcasters (PSBs) in the UK since the mid-2000s.

Its aim is to provide a “positive injection of investment” in the TV sector to help create new avenues for creators of original content and bring new voices to the market. It will be delivered over the course of three years.

The fund is also aimed at stimulating greater variety in a market where the BBC is often the dominant buyer and broadcaster of children’s content. In 2016, the BBC accounted for 87% of all first-run UK-originated children’s programming by PSBs.

The YACF sits alongside a £3m fund dedicated to public service audio content on commercial radio for all ages. Both funds will also provide a boost to programming in non-English UK languages such as Welsh and Gaelic, 5% of the total fund earmarked for this.

Alongside Edwards, John Knowles has been recruited as production executive, Harriet Williams as development executive and Hesham Sabry as business affairs executive.

Knowles is a Bafta-nominated children’s TV producer and joins the YACF team from his previous role as an in-house development producer for animation and puppetry at BBC Children’s.

Williams, meanwhile, arrives at the YACF from the original programming team at Disney Channels EMEA, where she worked on the development and production of scripted live-action series, including The Evermoor Chronicles and Disney’s The Lodge.

Sabry joins from the BBC, where he worked in the commercial, rights and business affairs team as a manager across the full range of output for six years.

Gill Biddle has been appointed YACF project manager, having previously worked in project and production management on titles for the BBC, ITV, Smithsonian Channel and National Geographic.

With a rolling deadline for production and development funding, the BFI is seeking applications for original programming with public service broadcasting values, in both live-action and animation, and across all genres.

Production funding requires a formal broadcast commitment from a free-to-access channel or platform that is overseen by UK media regulator Ofcom.

Development funding, meanwhile, will prioritise supporting new voices and emerging producers with projects that are intended for broadcast but are not in a position to secure a commission.

Margot James, UK minister for digital and creative industries, 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’s broadcast sectors reach hundreds of millions of people of all ages around the globe and are a tremendous success story that we are justifiably proud of. This innovative project is an integral part of our ongoing support for the UK’s vibrant media sector, which we want to see go from strength to strength.”

Leeds-based Edwards, head of the YACF at the BFI, added: “It is such a thrill to throw the fund doors open, and a privilege to help support the development and production of brilliant, innovative television programmes that uniquely reflect the lives of children across the UK.”

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport cited TV shows Peppa Pig and Art Attack and radio show Desert Island Discs as examples of the kind of IP it hopes to unearth. More information can be found here.


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