The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Giving with One Hand, Taking Back with the Other

The Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport has announced that it is removing 25% of the budget for the Young Audiences Content Fund, before the three year pilot scheme is completed. This represents, according to Broadcast Magazine, around 20 productions which will not now be funded.  Having fought long and hard for the Fund, and subsequently campaigned with industry bodies such as Pact and Animation UK to ensure that the majority of its grant was directed at content for children and young people, this is a major disappointment.

CMF issued the following press statement on 17 May 2021...

Children's Media Foundation Reaction to News of Reduced Funding for the Young Audiences Content Fund.

The recently announced news that the DCMS plans to claw back £13m of the Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF), reducing the overall grant to the Fund from £57m to £44m will come as a huge disappointment to the children's production community and is a major disservice to the children of Britain.  This 25% cut shows scant regard for the vital role it has played in rejuvenating the children’s production sector, providing much needed UK-cultural content on platforms other than the BBC and expanding the range of programmes available to young people. Once again children are served up “reduced portions.”

The Foundation, along with industry organisations such as Pact and Animation UK, campaigned long and hard to achieve additional funding for the children's and youth sector, in response to the market failure consistently proved by the Ofcom statistics that showed significantly reduced commissioning and spend in the children’s genre over ten years or more.  The money originally set-aside for the fund was, as the DCMS makes clear in its statement, originally earmarked for broadband roll-out, but when the commitment to a £57m fund was first announced, no mention was made of clawing any of it back before the project was completed.  Now the government are damaging their own pilot scheme, just when it is showing results.

Anna Home Chair of the Children’s Media Foundation said today: “The 25% reduction seems petty-minded and illogical. Cutting back something perceived to be a potential success before the completion of the pilot makes no sense."

Supporters of the Children's Media Foundation have been in touch to express their disappointment and disbelief that the government could “give with one hand only to take away with the other”.

"This was more than a shot in the arm. It was a lifeline.”
"This news is heart breaking.  It shows a total lack of care for the children’s audience, and a total disregard for the work of the YACF to date, which has been a game changer for so many Independents.”
“Disappointing in what is an even more challenging landscape for UK children’s content producers throughout and post Covid”.
“The impact of the withdrawal of the funding will be devastating to many people, as well as detrimental to the audience. Production companies will have shows that have to be cancelled."

CMF is currently compiling a report on the future of public service content for children and young people. A range of eminent academics, industry and political figures have already contributed, and more will follow. This is in part a response to the failure of any of the studies published so far (by Ofcom and the DCMS Select Committee) to take account of the way in which young people’s media consumption should be the key to long term thinking about the future of public service content, its funding and delivery.

The massive shift to on-demand viewing on new platforms, greater participation in media creation, interactivity, social sharing, algorithmic recommendation: this is the future that young people are already pursuing. Proposals for the future of public service content must take these technological and cultural shifts into account.

But the more immediate issue is what attracts and engages young people. That is content squarely aimed at them, relevant to their needs, and engaged with their pre-occupations and passions. The YAC Fund has been providing that - as a complement to the BBC - and should continue to do so.

  • CMF calls upon the government to extend the life of the YAC Fund to a fourth year and reinstate its full funding - to allow the experiment to continue to build value for the children’s audience.
  • In the longer term the CMF calls on the DCMS and Ofcom to learn lessons from the success of the YAC Fund. When Ofcom reports to government on the future of our public service media framework in July, there should be specific recommendations to government that detail how a new body will fulfil that important function, with increased funding that uses a more innovative, self-sustaining financing model.   Continuing the Fund will also provide the basic structure for more radical approaches to competitive public service content going forward - potentially on new platforms and in new genres such as social and interactive media.
  • CMF also invites the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to attend the Children's Media Conference in July to join the CMF debate on the future of public service content for young people. He should be prepared to defend this short-sighted decision in front of the entire industry.

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)