The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

CMF’s Policy on BBC and PSB Revealed

On the 21st May, CMF Chair Anna Home spoke at The Westminster Media Forum seminar on 'The Future of Children’s Content - Latest Trends, Commercial Opportunities and Safeguards'

anna home confernceThe title of her session was: The Future of Original UK Children's Content and she used the opportunity to outline CMF’s latest thinking on the BBC Charter and Licence Fee Review and on future regulation of commercial public service broadcasting.
Anna began by pointing out that the future was uncertain...

There has been a steady decline in original UK children's content, across all platforms since the 2003 Communications Act, in which children's content was de-regulated, exacerbated by the ban on advertising HFSS foods in 2006. This resulted in ITV more or less pulling out of commissioning original content.

Despite the huge growth of children's channels since then, the BBC is now the only commissioner of this kind of content in any real volume.

Anna outlined CMF's position on the BBC and the Licence Fee which we support, at least at it's current level for the moment. She argued that in reality BBC Children's deserves more rather than less funding, but the likely outcome of a cut in the Licence Fee would probably mean less for kids. The impact of previous cuts is shown clearly in figures from Ofcom. Since 2003 the BBC has reduced it's first run children’s hours by 59%.

Moreover she argued that in the context of the 2014 Ofcom PSB Review and the recent Pact/Ragdoll Foundation Report the position of the commercial PSBs (ITV, Channels 4 & 5) should be re-considered, and some way of ensuring that they invest again in original content should be found.

In 2003 these companies together spent £68 million on original kids content. In 2013 it was £3 million!

Ofcom made a number of suggestions including a return to mandatory regulation, but they also argue that this, or any other requirement to re-invest, would need an incentive of some kind - either financial or involving more pragmatic regulatory regimes. Examples include the use of various forms of levy, or the transfer of individual channel’s PSB responsibilities to the parent institutions so that the portfolio channels could be used to carry the new content. So ITV could count the content on CITV as part of its public service offering, which it is not allowed to include currently.

CMF supports further investigation of all these options by Ofcom. Basically regulation should help companies achieve good services for children while recognising the realities of modern channel usage.

Another possibility which was mentioned in the Pact/Ragdoll Foundation Report and which has been discussed in the past, is the idea of creating a contestable fund. CMF, in its previous incarnation as the Save Kids’ TV campaign, supported this idea. Although at that time SKTV was proposing a specific VOD service for children with funded content, rather than investment in individual projects which would need to be the proposition now.

Anna announced that CMF intends to commission a study to explore the feasibility and potential of a contestable fund.

She closed by stressing how serious and urgent the current situation is and that we all need to work together to try to find some solutions before it is too late.

You can read the whole of Anna Home's speech here.

Oli-HyattThe second speaker in the session was Oli Hyatt, Creative Director of Blue Zoo productions and Chair of Animation UK. Also a Founder Patron of the CMF.

He stressed that content is what's important, not its means of delivery, and he also reminded everyone that the demise of television has been exaggerated.

Like Anna he emphasised the decline in original content across all the PSB channels, and noted that the 2006 advertising ban appeared to have had little impact on the levels of child obesity.

He agreed that there needed to be a carrot of some kind to encourage the commercial PSBs to re engage, and he argued that the BBC should fund kid's content in proportion to their numbers in the population - i.e. around 17% of total spend.

He presented a thought-provoking example of funding disparity: One season of Match of the Day edited soccer highlights costs the BBC as much if not more than all the original content for kids on all PSB channels in the UK in a single year.

20140428 Mike Watts Novel Entertainment head and shouldersIn a later session Mike Watts, Co-founder and Chief Executive of Novel Entertainment and Chairman of the Children’s and Animation Policy Group at Pact made similar proposals as the previous speakers but argued that Ofcom should require the commercial PSBs to commission original content on a voluntary basis, and if they fail to deliver, re-impose quotas.

All the speakers stressed the urgency of the situation and the need for real action to be taken. Anna Home and other contributors from the CMF will be talking these arguments further at the Children's Media Conference in July.

One Response to “CMF’s Policy on BBC and PSB Revealed”

  • Colin Ward says:

    Excellent informative summary. So important to have those facts and figures brought together in a simple, clear format. Thanks.

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)