The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Young Audiences Content Fund Under Review

Prof. Jeanette Steemers, CMF Board member and chair of the Young Audiences Content Fund Steering Committee, reminds us that the time has come for government decisions about the future life of the fund now that the three-year pilot is coming to a close.

The Children's Media Foundation has always been supportive of the Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF) and its work in funding the development and production of 150 hours in 42 brand-new innovative UK originated programmes over 2 years.  As the YACF makes its case for further support to the Government ahead of the Autumn spending review, its vital contribution needs acknowledgment and its funding needs to be put on a more secure footing - with additional funding not just a raid on the licence fee.  This is the position of CMF.

Investing £30.3M by the end of its second year into content with public service value for distribution on free-to-access platforms,  the fund has undoubtedly boosted content for older children, live action and drama and content that allows children to see 'their lives on screen',  gaps that have been identified several times over by Ofcom and others as weaknesses in the sector.

In September the Fund published its Year 2 evaluation report which makes for interesting reading.  In Year 2 in spite of the pandemic, and an initial reduction in commissioning it supported 25 production and 57 development projects with £17.7m, leveraging a further £26.3m from other funders, amounting to 38% of production project funding.   This is less than the 50% eligibility threshold, but underlines how many funding sources the fund has attracted - including commercial funders.which makes interesting reading. In Year 2 in spite of the pandemic, and an initial reduction in commissioning it supported 25 production and 57 development projects with £17.7m, leveraging a further £26.3m from other funders, amounting to 38% of production project funding. This is less than the 50% eligibility threshold, but underlines how many funding sources the fund has attracted - including commercial funders.

Reinvigorating support for children's content  from the UK's public service commercial channels (ITV, Five, Channel 4), as well as the indigenous language broadcasters BBC Alba, S4C and TG4 and other free to air PS services the fund has also raised morale in the independent sector, with 137 different - largely SME - production companies from all around the country benefitting. This reinforces the YACF's commitment to new voices and the nations and regions.  The majority of all supported projects in Year 2 were live action or largely live action mixed media programmes. Including scripted drama for children and teens (Tell Me Everything for ITV2; Big Boys for C4; Ted’s Top 10 for CITV; Triùir Aig Trì  (3@3) for BBC Alba; Person/A and Y Gyfrinach/The Secret for S4C). And non-fiction content such as unscripted, award-winning popular dating format Teen First Dates on E4 and Channel 5's factual entertainment show Go Green with the Grimwades which tackles green issues for preschoolers, with its focus on a popular dual heritage YouTube influencer family.

Research commissioned by the BFI from Cardiff University among 4-18 year olds who participated in the  BFI's See Yourself on Screen Challenge underlines the continued need for the fund and freely available screen content for all children.  This was  particularly true during the pandemic when children and teenagers were isolated from friends and family and their creative ideas and responses demonstrate what they value about British content made for them. Children's voices from the research reveal the vital role of TV in creating a sense of community through shared viewing and experiences, regardless of platform, but also their desire to have their voices heard on important political, economic and environmental issues. Yet just 24% of those surveyed in 2021 believe that TV shows children and young people who  look like them,  with those from ethnic minority backgrounds,  single parent families  or those with a disability feeling more underrepresented. Children, particularly older children, acknowledged the importance of YouTube and social media, but were also concerned about the negative experiences of engaging with social media. 55% of children still watched TV regularly on a TV set, ahead of tablets, computers and mobile phones.

The findings underscore the importance of interventions by the BFI’s YACF, whose investment in content that represents the diversity of children and their experiences, is making a valuable contribution to the range of quality, free-to-air programming that children can access – especially in these challenging times.

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)