Pioneering content fund BFI Young Audiences, funded by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), will complete its three-year pilot program on February 25.
The fund has offered up to 50% of the children’s and young people’s programming budget of UK public service broadcasters such as ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. It has supported 144 development projects and 55 productions, including ‘Teen First Dates” (Channel 4’s E4), “Makeaway Takeaway” (ITV’s CITV) and “The World According to Grandpa” (Channel 5’s Milkshake!), as well as new projects in indigenous languages, including “Sol”, created for Irish Celtic (TG4), Scottish Gaelic (BBC ALBA) and Welsh (S4C) languages. There are 24 projects in production yet to air over the next two years.
The decision to close the fund was met with resistance from an influential British organization. The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF), a non-profit organization committed to ensuring the best media choices for young people across all platforms, called the move “a short-sighted failure on the part of DCMS policy makers” and a asked Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries to overturn the decision.
CMF chair Anna Home said: “We are now facing a marked decline in the number and range of youth programs in the UK – we could very quickly be back to where we started three years ago. years – with the BBC as the sole commissioning body. content for children – and in fact it’s worse as the BBC also faces government-imposed budget cuts over the next few years.
According to Ofcom, the UK media regulator, public service broadcasters’ hours and spending on children’s programming in the UK has steadily declined over the past decade. Broadcasters only ordered 640 hours in 2019, down from 1,584 in 2006. Spending fell from around £99m ($133m) to £79m ($106m) between 2013 and 2019.
The Young Audiences Content Fund underspent a portion of its budget a year ago due to COVID-19 and that amount was picked up by DCMS. CMF director Greg Childs said: ‘The amount the government clawed back unnecessarily was around 25% of the fund’s overall budget. This could easily keep the fund alive for a few more years as the effects of BBC budget cuts are better understood and discussions over the future of license fee television are concluded.
The CMF suggests that a combination of a tax on streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus and YouTube combined with improved lottery funding could fund the fund in the future.
Meanwhile, the British Film Institute (BFI), which administers the Young Audiences Content Fund, said in a statement: “We are incredibly proud of what the BFI Young Audiences Content Fund has achieved over three years. It gave young people across the UK the opportunity to watch and engage with original British programming on free, regulated platforms, reflecting their lives, hopes and fears, and educating, entertaining and inspiring them.
“Research and new commissions demonstrate that these programs are highly valued by young audiences and we hope the legacy of the fund will encourage UK broadcasters to continue to focus on programs that nurture and reflect the lives of young people in the Kingdom. United,” the statement added.