The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

CMF Event: The Fund, Ofcom and the PSBs

 

Diana Hinshelwood, Editor CMF Newsletter and CMF Executive Board Member reports on a CMF public meeting held on 9th May 2019.


The Children's Media Foundation has campaigned for years for a fund to provide new, additional public service content for children and young people. With the launch of the Young Audiences Content Fund, the reality comes one step closer.

On the evening of May 9th the CMF held a public meeting to discuss how the YAC Fund will work and how it will relate to the new Ofcom powers requiring the PSBs to show more content for children and young people.

The panel:

Jackie Edwards, Head of BFI YAc Fund

Magnus Brooke, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs, ITV

John McVay, Chief Executive, Pact

Megan Thomas, Senior Policy & Public Affairs Executive, Channel 4

The panel was expertly chaired by Stewart Purvis, former CEO and Editor-in-Chief of ITN and Ofcom Partner for Content and Standards.


The first thing to say is that Ofcom were not represented at the meeting as they are not ready to publish the PSB responses to their letter requesting more content for young people on each of their networks. We understand they will publish in time for the Children's Media Conference in early July.  However, ITV and Channel 4 were present to outline how they plan to engage with the scheme - though again Channel 4 was holding back information pending a summer launch of their plans.

The focus of much of the discussion was therefore on the fund, and how ITV and C4 might relate to it.

Jackie Edwards highlighted the main themes of the fund. They will look at applications from producers on a case by case basis and against the criteria which were consulted on and are now in place. She stressed that in the end decisions will be made on the merits of the proposal. All the information about application is on the BFI website. Of particular interest to producers in the room was Jackie's enthusiastic description of the development part of the Fund - with money available for projects which do not yet have broadcaster support or match funding in place.

Channel 4 and ITV presented as positive on the fund, which is encouraging given past hesitancy. ITV announced a budget increase of 10% for children's content, more than any other genre in their portfolio. This was in part a response to the Fund and the need for at least half the finance to be found from broadcasters or other sources.

Channel 4 already have a strategy for the 10-14 year old audience which they must serve  as part of their Broadcast Licence. This involves including content of interest to that age group in more general programming - like ' Ackerley Bridge" or "Lego Masters' and they are pleased with the shares programmes like these achieve with that age range. But as Stewart Purvis pointed out - this is not content directly tied to the needs of that age range. In response Channel 4 said that there would be more of that strategy to come, but also something new - with budget attached - which would chime with the aims of the Fund - and that would be announced in due course.

Since the meeting, Channel 5 have announced developments, which will be addressed elsewhere.

 

The panel discussion was followed by a lively question and answer session, where the audience were able to ask for clarification on key points connected with the operation of the Fund, which is clearly going to became a major part of producers' lives in a very short time.

The meeting was positive, and Jackie Edwards' call for everyone to pull together as a community to make the Fund a success and get new programmes made was an inspiring theme that ran through the event.

It all ended with a drinks reception where a glass of wine or beer was very welcome to enhance the good will. Our thanks go to Lewis Silkin LLP in Chancery Lane who provided the room and hospitality free of charge and whose welcome and hospitality were excellent, and to ALCS who sponsor the CMC events programme.

 

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