The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

The Contestable Fund – Detailed Planning Under Way

In a recent meeting with a senior official at the Dept for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DDCMS) CMF was able to discover more detail about the plans for the new public service contestable content fund.

On 30 December last year, the Department announced that the Fund would be dedicated to children's content, and that the BFI would be figuring out who it could work.

CMF welcomed the focus on children's content. It followed the recommendations we made, along with other organisations like Pact, that a single focus for the Fund would make more sense for a pilot project, and that children;s and youth content was suffering the most obvious 'market failure' so assistance was needed more than in other genres.

Currently the proposals for the Fund are undergoing legal checks at DDCMS - as to how, or example, State Aid rules might apply, which can restrict the extent to which government can support industrial activity.

The broad outline of the plan will be put to the Secretary of State in April.

By mid-2018 there will a public report, with the proposed plan outlined in some detail. Details of administration will be worked out jointly with the BFI and a full plan in place by the end of 2018.

The Fund will be operational from April 2019.

What's clear already is that the fund will be targeted at producers, with a significant percentage of the project budgets on offer. Producers will only qualify if they can guarantee carriage on a public service platform which will get the content to the audience free of charge. So this suggests channels and VoD services operated by ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C will be the outlets - unless there is some radical thinking about shared use of the BBC IPlayer, or other platforms step up with free offerings.  This would not preclude investment from other sources to complete the funding packages. But platforms that are not free-to-air will not be able to have an exclusive or first showing.

Further details are yet to be thrashed out.

CMF has offered to host a round-table of producers to help the DDCMS and BFI understand more fully the challenges and needs in building funding packages.

In the meantime we fed into their thinking some of the comments made at our recent event which in part discussed the Contestable Fund - including a strong plea that the Fund support innovation and new entrants.

Policy

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