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Club C21

UK kids’ TV in ‘crisis’

UK trade body Pact has linked up with Teletubbies creator Anne Wood to launch a campaign that puts pressure on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to commission more content for children.



Wood’s charity, The Ragdoll Foundation, and Pact say the severe lack of support from the commercial public service broadcasters (PSBs) in the UK has resulted in a “crisis” in the market.

The two companies use figures from UK media regulator Ofcom’s PSB Annual Report 2014 to show that investment, spend and first-run hours of original content across the PSBs have “plummeted” since 2003.

The spend on and volume of first-run hours of children’s content by the PSBs have fallen by 95% and 68% respectively over the last decade, the report states.

Options for improvement set out in their report, titled ‘The case for greater investment in children’s TV,’ include a return to PSB quotas for original children’s programming.

The 2003 Broadcasting Act reduced pressure on commercial broadcasters to produce children’s content of their own, while rules on advertising aimed at kids were tightened up in 2007, significantly reducing the commercial potential of the genre.

Pact CEO John McVay said these developments were a “lethal combination” that has “resulted in a collapse in investment.”

“In the current TV landscape, the stark reality is that the BBC is left as the remaining sole buyer of children’s PSB, with shrinking budgets and no guarantee that it will secure the licence fee deal it needs to invest in children’s content in the future,” McVay added.

In 2014/15 the combined budget for the BBC’s two children’s channels, CBBC and CBeebies, was £105m (US$155m), down £3m or 4% in real terms from the year before, the reports say. Meanwhile, the BBC Trust has not ruled out further cuts in the future.

Although hopes have risen ahead of the introduction of a children’s TV tax credit on April 1, both Pact and The Ragdoll Foundation are adamant more needs to be done.

Wood said: “We need a realistic solution to create a new infrastructure that provides for new opportunities for programme-makers of the future. Legislative changes, financial incentives and especially improved market opportunities for all PSB broadcasters, not just the BBC, to commission UK children’s productions are needed if children’s programming is to survive.”

ITV, which recently commissioned a Thunderbirds reboot for its CITV channel, has previously defended the amount of original programming it commissions for children, following criticism from Wood.

Elsewhere, C4 offers almost no programming for children across its channels, while C5 has an early morning preschool block called Milkshake!, although the report states that this contains “relatively little new programming.”

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