U.K. Unveils $80M Kids TV Content Fund

Credit: Getty / Dan Kitwood
U.K. culture minister Karen Bradley

"Over the past decade the output of children’s television from public service broadcasters in the U.K. has been in decline," says the office of culture secretary Karen Bradley.

U.K. culture secretary Karen Bradley has unveiled a 60 million pound ($80.5 million) fund to help boost children’s television in the country.

"The £60 million fund will be available for content creators to receive up to 50 percent of the production and distribution costs of original TV shows" her office said. "Over the past decade the output of children’s television from public service broadcasters in the U.K. has been in decline, with spending falling by £55 million ($74 million). This investment will aim to help reverse that trend and is the first of its kind to specifically focus on children’s television."

The fund will also help to "stimulate greater variety" as the BBC is often the dominant buyer and home for children’s content in Britain. In 2016, the BBC accounted for 87 percent of all first-run U.K. originated children’s programming by public service broadcasters, according to the culture secretary. 

The fund's cash will be distributed over three years, with a pilot starting in 2019. Programs "from new and diverse backgrounds" will be a particular focus.

The culture secretary's office said the fund will support kids content aired on Britain's commercial public service broadcasters, namely ITV, Channel 4, Viacom's Channel 5 and Welsh-language S4C, as well as programming for "other free and widely available channels and on-demand platforms, and potentially also online."

The British Film Institute has been provisionally appointed as administrator for the fund and will work with government on its final design, including whether the fund should include other genres in its scope. 

The U.K. had in 2014 extended existing tax incentives for animation and high-end TV programs to U.K. children’s programs. 

"High-quality children’s television is not only entertaining but plays a vital role in stimulating learning and giving young people a greater understanding of the world around them," said Bradley. "This significant investment will give our world-renowned television production sector the boost it needs to create innovative content for a wider audience that would otherwise not be made."

Anna Home, chair of the Children’s Media Foundation, commented on the new fund, saying: "It’s a much-needed stimulus for the U.K.’s children's media makers, and we hope it will bring new and exciting content for children of all ages that could not otherwise have been commissioned.”

John McVay, CEO of PACT, the trade association representing the commercial interests of U.K. independent TV, film, digital, children’s and animation media companies: "PACT has long campaigned for increased investment in original children’s content to incentivize new entrants to the market."

He argued that the fund, along with the introduction of new criteria in Britain's Digital Economy Act, "will encourage the commercial public service broadcasters back to the table and foster new talent."

A detailed policy paper will be published in 2018 setting out how the fund will work, with first awards expected to be distributed from the beginning of 2019/2020.

The U.K. government previously gave U.K. media regulator Ofcom powers to introduce children's content quotas on commercial public service broadcasters should it see fit. Ofcom launched a review of children’s content in November and plans to publish its findings, alongside any proposed regulatory measures, in the summer.