The BBC is poised to double its spending on original children’s programming to around US$140 million a year if it receives the British government’s go-ahead to launch two new dedicated digital children’s channels, hoped for early in the New Year.
The caster is lobbying hard for the two new services-Playbox for preschoolers, and an as-yet-unnamed channel for six- to 12-year-olds-in the face of opposition from the commercial camp led by the Disney UK chief Paul Robinson.
CBBC controller Nigel Pickard claims that the planned expansion would enhance production opportunities for companies in the U.K., foster and develop new talent in front of and behind the camera, and ensure that the U.K. remains a benchmark in the global marketplace of children’s television.
Almost 90% of U.K. adults back the concept of advertising-free, British-originated services, suggest BBC sources. But the proposals are subject to industry-wide consultation, and both Disney and Nickelodeon will continue to fight them to the last ditch.
Stressing that the BBC’s investment in U.K. children’s shows is much bigger than any of its rivals, Pickard said that Playbox intends to screen at least 90% domestic output, while the other proposed service will show just under 80%. The idea is to use existing fare like Teletubbies, Tweenies, Noddy, Postman Pat, Fireman Sam and Angelmouse to buttress new programs based on storytelling, music, `make-and-do’ craft ideas, puzzles, factual and natural history.
The older-skewing channel, which will need longer to put together before launch, intends to have a daily dose of flagship show Blue Peter, twice daily editions of Newsround, and a significant interactive element. Repeats of classic CBBC kids dramas are planned, such as The Magician’s House, The Tales of Narnia, The Box of Delights and The Phoenix and the Carpet.
The plan is to share new ideas between BBC1 and the new services, ultimately winding down BBC2′s successful policy of breakfast-time repeats and the early-evening kids zone.