The British Film Institute has chosen longtime BBC kids exec Jackie Edwards (pictured) to oversee its upcoming US$73-million (£57 million) Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF).
Edwards will leave her current role as head of acquisitions and independent animation for BBC Children’s to join the BFI next month in Leeds. Reporting to deputy CEO Ben Roberts, she will help shape the fund’s final design and implementation, and support its goal to diversify the kids public service broadcast landscape in the UK.
Opened for applications on April 1, the three-year program—which is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Contestable Fund—will provide up to US$77 million (£60 million) to the BFI in development and production funding to support original public service content in the UK via two separate funds.
The YACF will earmark up to US$73 million (£57 million) in support of content for audiences up to 18 years old. And the Audio Content Fund will allot up to US$4 million (£3 million) to back public service audio content for all ages on commercial radio.
According to Brit regulatory and competition authority Ofcom, there has been a recent decline in the production of public service programming for kids in the UK, with broadcasters spending roughly 40% less in 2017 than they did in 2006. As a result, repeats comprised the majority of kids content on commercial children’s channels (98%) and public service broadcasters (91%) in 2016.
To help reverse the decline, the YACF will support original programming—both live action and animation—across genres including education, fiction and drama, arts and culture, factual and religion. And to help back creators and content that reflects kids in the UK, the Contestable Fund will include development funding (approximately 5% of the YACF) dedicated to new voices and emerging producers, for which a broadcaster commitment is not necessary. Approximately 5% of the total funding is earmarked for programming that features Indigenous languages such as Welsh and Gaelic.
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 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.
Edwards has served as head of acquisitions and independent animation for BBC Children’s since 2015 and was tasked with pre-buying and acquiring live-action and animated programming, as well as leading department strategy. She first joined the organization in 2008 as content manager for CBeebies and later worked as an executive producer on shows including Tree Fu Tom, Octonauts, Bing, Rastamouse and Clangers.
As a freelancer prior to joining the BBC, she worked on the development, financing and production of shows for companies such as The LEGO Group, Three Stones Media and Mackinnon & Saunders. Edwards began her career in TV animation in 1995 as a PA with Hibbert Ralph Entertainment (later Silver Fox Films).
With files from Elizabeth Foster