The Children’s Media Foundation has criticised the decision by the government not to continue the Young Audiences Content Fund beyond its three-year pilot stage.
The DCMS funded Young Audiences Content Fund will now conclude its three year pilot and closes for applications at 6pm on 25 February 2022.
The Fund has supported 144 development projects and 55 productions ranging from Teen First Dates (E4) to sustainable craft show Makeaway Takeaway (CITV) and The World According The Grandpa (Milkshake!), as well as new projects in indigenous languages such as Sol — a film on grief created for the Celtic languages Irish (TG4), Scottish Gaelic (BBC ALBA) and Welsh (S4C), with more awards still to be made in the closing weeks of the Fund.
No further funding will be available after February 2022. The Foundation “considers this a short-sighted failure on the part of the policy makers at the DCMS” and has called upon the Secretary of State, Nadine Dorries to reverse the decision.
CMF Chair, Anna Home OBE said: “The Young Audiences Content Fund has more than proved its worth. To date the Fund has helped develop 144 new ideas and 55 brand new programmes. These have considerably enhanced the public service offering of CITV, Channel 5’s Milkshake!, Channel 4, S4C and others. By offering up to 50% of the finding for public service content proposals for children and young people, it has enabled Ofcom’s new powers obliging ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to carry more children’s programmes to be significantly more effective. Now we face a definite decrease in the number and range of programmes being made for young people in the UK – we could very quickly be back where we started three years ago – with the BBC as the only body commissioning content for children – and in fact it’s worse as The BBC is facing government-imposed budget cuts of its own over the next few years too.”
CMF Director, Greg Childs OBE, said: “It’s tragic. Ofcom have for years reported ‘market failure’ in the kids’ sector. The collapse of advertising revenue has meant that the commercial public service broadcasters have been commissioning very little to complement and compete with the BBC. The Fund turned that around – for a relatively small amount of money. It had a profound impact not just on the number of people working on content for kids – but on the kids themselves as the range of programmes on offer was expanded.”
The Children’s Media Foundation has suggested that the budget underspent by the Fund – mainly due to the inevitable slow-down in production caused by Covid – that was taken back by the DCMS just under a year ago, could be reinstated to grant a 2 year stay of execution.
Greg Childs added: “The amount the government needlessly clawed back was around 25% of the overall budget for the Fund. This could easily keep the Fund alive for a further couple of years as the effects of BBC budget cuts are better understood, and as discussions on the future of the television licence fee are concluded.”
The Children’s Media Foundation proposes that a combination of a levy on the hugely profitable streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus and YouTube combined with enhanced Lottery Funding could finance the Fund in the future.
Anna Home said: “There needs to be public service media for children beyond the BBC, and the pilot proves this is possible. Children need media which is domestic as well as international. Media which reflects their own lives and culture, and where they hear their own voices. A generation of young people denied their own stories will grow up to be a generation with little loyalty for the institutions and values of the society in which they live.”
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