The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Free to Air Channels – a Westminster Media Forum Event

At the June Westminster Forum on The Future of Free to Air in the UK, CMF Chair, Anna Home, spoke in the session: "What is Free to Air For?"

She made the case for the vital role of free to air, in particular the PSB channels in continuing to provide varied, age appropriate, entertaining, stimulating and challenging content in a multi channel, multi platform world, where children have access to vast quantities of programming, and where YouTube is becoming the "channel of choice".

She praised the BBC for its range of content, but pointed out its spending limitations.

She criticised both ITV and Channel 5 for their lack of original content, and Channel 4 for under serving older children, one of the target audiences specified in the terms of its Licence.

Helen Jay (Deputy Head of Corporate Relations at Channel 4) responded by saying that the channel was intending to devote more investment towards this audience in the future but did not specify details.

Anna drew attention to both the Contestable Fund for Public Service Content, and the potential re-regulation of the commercial PSBs by Ofcom as a possible partial solution to the problem of the lack of original content currently.

Later David Cockram, Principal Strategy & Policy, Ofcom said the commercial PSBs must find resources to appeal to younger audiences, but did not specify how this would be enforced, saying things would be clearer later in the summer when Ofcom publishes the next phase of its consultation on its Children's Review.

Among the main themes which emerged from the seminar overall were the need for the PSBs to collaborate rather than compete, and the importance of UK content both national and local, in all genres.

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