The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Updates on the BFI’s Young Audiences Content Fund

By Jackie Edwards, Head of BFI's Young Audiences Content Fund.

The Young Audiences Content Fund is a Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) funded, 3 year pilot to support the development and production of brilliant television for British children and teens.

We opened the doors on the 1st April 2019 with the specific intent of addressing the well-described deficit of content that uniquely reflects the lives of our young people. We intended to support programmes that would give young audiences more choice - show them our world, show them our differences and similarities, to make them think, to make them smile, to help them understand. The Fund was to broaden the broadcast offer in terms of genre, technique, tone, and target audience.

Big Boys (Channel 4)

In less than 2 short years, the Fund is doing the job it set out to do. Our December slate announcement illustrated the way the Fund is facilitating the production of distinctive, high quality public service content around the UK, across different genres (from comedy to current affairs) for audiences that have been particularly underserved for many years. The awardees included Jack Rook’s coming of age and coming out comedy ‘Big Boys’ (Channel 4, Roughcut TV), Generation Genome (KMTV, KMTV Creative) which sets out genetic science, it’s societal impacts and ethics at a hugely prescient moment in time; a second award for FYI’s ‘I Don’t Get It’ explainers and short form docs ‘Kidversation’ following a re-commission by Sky; ‘A Bear Named Wojtek’ a true story that resonates with todays refugee stories (BBC Alba/Illuminated Films; First Dates: Teens (E4, Twenty, Twenty) – where 16-19 year olds approach actual first dates, with real honesty and wisdom and is genuinely uplifting telly; and finally, the faithful adaptation of the children’s classic ‘Quentin Blake’s Clown’ which played on C4 on Christmas Day. All of it great television for older children and teens that says something about their lives and the world we are living in.

The World According to Grandpa

At around the same time, previously awarded shows – factual entertainment, current affairs, docs, a game show, comedy, drama – for audiences from tots to teens were all going to air: ‘How’ (CITV, Terrific Television), ‘FYI Investigates’ (Sky News, First News, Sky Kids/Fresh Start Media); ‘Don’t Unleash the Beast’ (CITV/Tiny House Productions); ‘Go Green With the Grimwades’ (Channel 5’s Milkshake!/Doc Hearts), ‘The World According to Grandpa’ (Channel 5’s Milkshake!/S4C/Saffron Cherry Productions), ‘Letters On Lockdown’ (E4/Afro-Mic Productions) and more recently, the brilliant ‘Rap Therapy’ (E4/Mother’s Best Child) where the UK's leading MCs, rappers and lyricists talk openly about mental health, and offer science-based mindfulness techniques to help young people improve their wellbeing. At the close of the year, ‘Sol’, a children’s animation about grief was broadcast at Winter Solstice. Originally a co-commission from the indigenous language broadcasters BBC ALBA, S4C and TG4, the film was also placed on All 4, ITV Hub, CITV, My5 to share with as wide an audience as possible, to bring light and comfort to families and young children a the end of a very difficult year.

Sol premiered on BBC Alba

Alongside production activity, the development fund is also succeeding - amply demonstrating how a little resource and the structure and process if offers can pay real dividends, and can help convert ideas to commissions in a meaningful way.  It also supports companies, jobs, upskills and helps the industry continue to innovate, generating beautiful new IP that will in turn create future business for companies all across the UK.

The Young Audiences Content Fund is diversifying the landscape for sure – it is a force for good, and we are optimistic about its continuation beyond the end of the pilot. It is not the answer to all of the sector’s problems, but is a tangible help to industry, and best of all is helping give our young audiences more choice with a brilliant and beautiful array of new programmes made especially for them.

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