The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Research project investigates alternative funding

Professor Jeanette Steemers (University of Westminster) describes a new project, which aims to explore the potential financing of a "contestable fund" for children's public service content.

With funding from the University of Westminster’s Strategic Research Fund, researchers from the School of Media, Arts and Design are about to undertake a short four-month research project that investigates alternative funding sources for public service content for children.

The project represents a unique, short window of opportunity to contribute to the policy-making process, connecting the current BBC Charter Review with long standing concerns about the financial sustainability of UK-produced children’s screen content.

The aim is to evaluate different funding possibilities in the context of a more challenging and competitive multiplatform media environment.  There has been no focused research on alternative funding sources for domestically produced children’s content even though funding for UK-originated children’s television programming has become less sustainable since the ban on junk food advertising and dramatic declines in commissioning by all UK broadcasters over the last decade.

This project addresses the following questions:

  • What forms of alternative funding exist to support public service content for children in a transforming multiplatform media environment?
  • What can we learn from the types of funding and support for children’s screen content elsewhere in the world – in terms of regulatory foundations, administration, accountability, levels of funding, amounts and types of content supported?
  • How effective are these funding systems and funding sources for supporting domestically produced content (examining range and numbers of projects supported; audience reach)?

The project will result in a report that can be used by stakeholders in the campaign for sustainable UK originated children’s production.  Demand for this work has been identified in discussions with the Children’s Media Foundation, the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, and the producers association PACT, and is highlighted in the CMF submission to the DCMS Review of the BBC Charter.

The research will consider the benefits and disadvantages of institutional funding systems (exemplified by public service broadcasting) and compare that method with distributed funding systems, which aim to achieve public service objectives through non-institutional regulatory or financial interventions  - including contestable funding.

The goal is to provide stakeholders with improved quality of evidence - something tangible that they can use in their  responses to the Government’s forthcoming White Paper on the BBC.

For further information please contact Professor Jeanette Steemers, Co-Director of Research, School of Media, Arts and Design, University of Westminster.

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)