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Club C21

UK kids industry gets cash boost

Members of the UK children’s TV industry have welcomed the government’s plans to introduce a fund of £20m (US$29m) per year to stimulate the production of content aimed at kids.

Oli Hyatt

Oli Hyatt

The pilot contestable fund for public service content is one of a number of reforms to the BBC proposed by John Whittingdale, secretary of state for culture and media, yesterday in a white paper that has received a mixed response from the industry.

However, the reaction to its plans to ensure children in the UK have access to more content from sources other than the BBC has been overwhelmingly positive.

The government said it wants to “stimulate plurality within public service broadcasting in areas such as children’s programming where the BBC has a near-monopoly and where contestability might deliver new, fresh content.”

It has recommended a fund of £20m year for a two- to three-year trial period starting in 2018/19. This cash will be available for content on television or online and focused on under-served genres, as identified by Ofcom, and audiences.

The worry that this cash will be drawn from the BBC’s current funding – dubbed ‘top-slicing’ – has proved unfounded as it will be directed from unallocated funding from the 2010 licence fee settlement.

This money is additional and separate from the funding agreement that the government and the BBC reached in July 2015, the white paper states.

Applications for the funding will be considered by a small panel of industry figures who would be appointed by the organisation administering the fund.

It is hoped that it will encourage the likes of ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to commission more content aimed at kids, while it could also potentially benefit emerging commissioners such as Netflix, Amazon and Sky.

All funding applications must have secured distribution on a free-to-air broadcaster/online publisher in order to be successful.

UK children’s media lobbying group The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF) welcomed the plans and approved of the fact it won’t be at the expense of the BBC’s current funding.

“The additional money provided will stimulate the children’s production sector to create more content for children and young people, replacing public service content lost in recent years,” the CMF said in a statement.

Oli Hyatt, co-founder of UK indie Blue Zoo Animation and chair of Animation UK, the genre’s industry body, said that the fund would not be enough to “save” kids TV in the UK.

However, Hyatt added: “British children’s programming, once the envy of the world, can perhaps, with much caution, look forward to a brighter future. This initiative alone with not repair years of erosion but it’s a good step in the right direction and we look forward to seeing more detail.”


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