Move over Peppa Pig. The UK government has officially launched a new Contestable Fund in an effort to bolster locally produced original children’s TV content.
The three-year program will provide up to US$78 million (£60 million) to support the production of UK public service content through two separate funds. The Young Audiences Content Fund will be administered by the British Film Institute (BFI) and allocate up to US$74 million (£57 million) in support of content for viewers up to 18 years old. The Audio Content Fund, meanwhile, will contribute as much as US$4 million (£3 million) in support of public service audio content for all ages.
According to Brit regulatory and competition authority Ofcom, there has been a recent decline in the production of public service programming for kids, with broadcasters spending roughly 40% less in 2017 than they did in 2006. As a result, repeats made up the majority of kids content on commercial children’s channels (98%) and public service broadcasters (91%) in 2016.
Ofcom data from 2017 also shows that more than 40% of 12- to 15-year-olds felt the content they watched last year didn’t reflect their lives. In an effort to support creators and content that represent kids in the UK, the Contestable Fund will include development funding (around 5% of the Young Audiences Content Fund) dedicated to new voices. Approximately 5% of the total funding is earmarked for programming that features Indigenous languages such as Welsh and Gaelic.
The Young Audiences Content Fund will also focus on decreasing market concentration and increasing competition and content diversity. Ofcom data shows that the BBC accounted for 87% of all homegrown kids original programming by public service broadcasters in 2016.
Applications for the Young Audiences Content Fund must be made by or through a company registered and centrally managed in the UK, another state of the European Union or the European Economic Area. Awards from the fund will support up to 50% of production costs, with applicants responsible for securing the remaining financing. Applicants for both production and development funding will be assessed by a dedicated team within the BFI, and detailed guidelines on the application process will be available in early 2019.
The Audio Content Fund, meanwhile, will support up to 100% of production costs in the pilot scheme, although no individual organization will receive more than US$229,000 (€200,000) during the three-year period.
Applicants for both funds will be evaluated based on a number of criteria, including quality, innovation, diversity and audience reach. Both funds will open for applications on April 1, 2019.
The 2016 white paper A BBC for the Future: A Broadcaster of Distinction initially set out to establish a contestable public service content fund. A public consultation was launched that same year seeking the perspectives of broadcasters, producers and viewers, and the fund was announced in December 2017.