The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

A Reason To Be Cheerful – Part 1. The £57 million Young Audiences Content Fund

By Jackie Edwards

Head of the Young Audiences Content Fund at the BFI

It’s a funny old world... Although there doesn’t seem to be a lot to laugh about currently. Leaving all the global, European and British political brow-furrowing items aside, and looking just at our own British kids' media industry doorstep – we’ve not had a lot to be optimistic about.

The last decade has seen a cavalcade of business challenges: advertising restrictions, changes in audience consumption habits and the rise and rise and rise of the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google). This has all led to a complicated, confusing picture. Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) and Advertising Based Video On Demand (AVOD) platforms dominate the UK landscape, in production finance opportunity, shoutiness and, seemingly, audience appreciation.

Meanwhile, the last decade has also seen a steep decline in the provision of public service programming for children and young people. Does that matter, I hear you ask? Depends on the level of importance you place on public service content – how it can support and enrich early childhood, explain and broaden children’s knowledge and their understanding of the world, entertainingly explain and reassure the chaos of teen years … and all of this not only subscription free, but carefully curated in a safe environment. It informs, it educates and it entertains. It’s the stuff that speaks specifically to our young people, and helps shape and define our cultural identity. I’d say it matters.

Times have been tough for public service content, but thanks to a huge amount of dedicated lobbying, a clear analysis of the decline of kids’ public service content by Ofcom and, moreover, a stellar decision by the UK Government, a glimmer of hope has emerged for this sector. The government have given UK audiences a splendid gift in the form of the £57 million Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF), a three year pilot administered by the BFI. The YACF is a very big reason to be cheerful. I say Part 1, because this is a Pilot – and while we need to start thinking about what Part 2 might look like, our collective endeavour should be to make Part 1 as successful as it possibly can be. This is an amazing opportunity and it shouldn’t be wasted. It’s for all of us, producers, broadcasters, distributors to make this work so audiences will continue to have access to an array of brilliant public service content.

As a creative community, we ALL need to engage with the Fund as fully as we can. Whether you’re applying for development or production support, thinking of commissioning a couple of additional shows or can mentor young talent with big potential – if you have an idea to make the Fund work better, or just want to shout about the wonders of the Fund in the street, please do. All of it. We need everyone’s active participation, opinions, celebration, communication. What we show this country’s young people really matters; let’s ensure that we continue the UK’s heritage of making brilliant, culturally defining, enduring programmes for our most important audiences.

The YACF Pilot is a game changer – a reason to be cheerful. Help make sure there is a YACF Part 2!

Get engaged with the Fund:

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)