The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Meeting the Minister

CMF Director Greg Childs reports on a meeting with the DCMS Minister for Media and the Creative Industries.

Julia Lopez MP

CMF followed up on the request made by the Young Audiences Content Fund campaign group for a meeting with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, by meeting Julia Lopez MP - Minister for Media and the Creative Industries - in the Houses of Parliament on 26th April.

We used the meeting to convey the extent of the funding crisis facing kids' TV and the damage to public service provision which will result. Damage which in the end impacts on kids' perception of themselves, their well-being and their connection to wider society as they grow up.

The main focus was, of course, the imminent closure of the Young Audiences Content Fund. We put arguments as to why it would be good sense to keep the Fund going so that it could become a focus for innovation in public service media - in the face of all the changes yet to come.  And of course we relayed the dismay and concern in the industry when the funding that had benefited so many projects dried up.  We set this in the context of the privatisation of Channel 4, cutbacks at the BBC and proposed changes of emphasis in commissioning at BBC Children's which would inevitably mean less public service content being available to UK kids, at a time when their mental health, socialisation, educational attainment and general well-being are all coming into question.  UK kids need the help, support and validation that public service content designed for them and targeted at them can bring.  We are entering a period when there will certainly be less of it.

Julia Lopez was receptive to our arguments, but clear in her inability to offer solutions. There was no doubt in her mind that the Young Audiences Content Fund was over, and there was no funding to be found in the immediate term, given the pressures on the public purse, to create interim support.

We made the point that the obsession at DCMS with financing for the initiative having come from the Licence Fee, and the decision in the recent Licence Fee settlement not to top-slice the Licence Fee to pay for Contestable Funding was holding back innovative thinking about how the Fund could be financed in the near and further future.  We talked about levies, cultural taxes and the Lottery as potential providers. We also pointed out that the original £60m budget for the pilot was not top-sliced from the Licence Fee. It was raised by the Licence Fee mechanism, but was a predicated fund for Broadband rollout, which, when underspent, was re-allocated to the contestable fund pilot.  It was never "taken away" from the BBC as both DCMS and The BBC rather melodramatically claim.

Julia Lopez was clear that everything now depended on the evaluation of the three year pilot. However we noted a sense that this evaluation was going to be about the success or failure of the idea of "Contestable Funding" - in her mind that was what the pilot was for - to test an idea for alternative methods of funding public service content.  Not as a sticking plaster for the kids' media industry facing market failure and a collapse of funded commissioning.

At one point she said that the industry should be glad that they were chosen as the subjects of the pilot, rather than complaining that they were no longer the recipients of subsidy.

The one positive was that she suggested the evaluation process should be open and inclusive and that we should in some way participate. We will of course pursue this with DCMS officials as soon as the timings for the evaluation are known.  Clearly industry bodies that are equally disappointed by the fate of the Fund and have supported the campaign against closure, such as Pact and Animation UK, are already talking to the DCMS and will also engage on behalf of the industry.

Industry Policy

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)