The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Ofcom Decides CBBC Quota

On 19 May Ofcom announced that it was approving a BBC proposal to decrease the required amount of "original programming" on CBBC channel from 72% to 66% this year and next, and 68% thereafter. This is apparently needed so BBC Children's can operate a new strategy to increase animation commissioning for the channel. Part of the funding to do that will come from increasing the amount of acquired programming, which costs less than originations.

Animation has proved popular with the audience that is defecting in significant numbers to SVoD and to YouTube. Ofcom want to see the BBC claw back this audience. So they are backing the animation strategy and the dilution of the quota requirements, which they consider unlikely to have much impact on live action commissioning.

However, that is patently not the case as there will be a reduction in the hours of live action commissioned, and it has been made clear to us by producers that budgets for live action are already being tightened - no doubt to also help pay for the animation. Independent producers are no longer offered full funding and have to seek out third party finance - usually involving  international sales.  But for live-action genres that don't travel well - and perhaps shouldn't if they are meant to relate to UK kids - this is not easy, or could lead to more compromises on public service values.

The BBC intends that its greater commissioning influence over the animation will ensure that the new content can be British in its look and feel. But animation is almost inevitably internationally financed and the BBC does not intend to fully fund, so maintaining a strong public service UK-focused sensibility will not be easy in the face of commercial pressure.

There is clear danger that what we will see in the end is fewer of the programmes that form the backbone of public service on CBBC - drama and factual, and more animation which is internationally focused with less public service commitment.  This is not to say that animation cannot serve pub lic service purposes - but it is harder to maintain relevance for UK  kids when finance comes from multiple partners in other parts of the world.

In the Ofcom consultation on this proposal CMF argued that if the BBC wants to attract 6-12 year-old kids with animation, then it should be prepared to pay for that, without cutting budgets for live-action. CBBC should basically get a budget boost to pursue the strategy. Ofcom tell us they have no power to influence budgets - and yet this entire request and the ultimate decision is based on the need to re-allocate funding.

In our opinion Ofcom have failed to take an imaginative view and this decision will harm the kids' media industry in the UK and diminish choice for the children's audience.

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)