The BBC, the White Paper and the Future of UK Children’s Content

8 June 2016

Child watching television

A new report entitled ‘Policy Solutions and International Perspectives on the Funding of Public Service Media Content for Children’ has been released by Professor Jeanette Steemers and Feryal Awan from the University of Westminster.

The report highlights the challenges of funding home-grown children’s content without more substantial state interventions such as investment quotas and levies which stimulate demand.  

It follows the Government’s recent White Paper, A BBC for the Future: A Broadcaster of Distinction, which proposes a new Public Service Content Fund, which could be used to fund programming genres in decline including children’s content. 

The publication of the University of Westminster report comes at a time when the production of UK children’s TV content is declining, leaving the BBC as virtually the sole commissioner of UK originated children’s TV content.  

The report was written after consultation with producers organisation PACT, the Children’s Media Foundation and the Voice of the Listener and the Viewer. It evaluates the different types of funding and support for children’s screen content available elsewhere in the world. 

At a panel discussion involving Alice Webb, Director of BBC Children’s; John McVay, Chief Executive of PACT; Oli Hyatt, Chair of Animation UK; Anna Home, Chair of the Children’s Media Foundation and Colin Browne, Chairman of the Voice of the Listener on 31 May, Professor Steemers underlined: 

  • The need for policy makers to think about demand for children’s content from a range of providers.
  • The need to be more forward looking and consider content other than television such as participatory,   interactive and digital content.
  • The sustainability of funding beyond the government’s proposed three-year pilot.

Professor Jeanette Steemers, lead researcher of the report at the University of Westminster, said: “Home-grown children’s programming has been starved of funding for over ten years, because of the virtual withdrawal of commercial players such as ITV from commissioning, so a fund that stimulates production is welcome, but it’s much more complicated than just providing the money. 
“The government also needs to think about the long-term sustainability of children’s content that is culturally relevant and capable of reaching significant numbers of children on a wide range of platforms. Beyond television, policy makers need to do much more thinking about what a public service commitment to children is likely to mean in future, across a variety of platforms and services.”

Download the report here

Image credit: Greenland/Shutterstock

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