The BFI has unveiled the latest slate from the government funded Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF), revealing 12 brand-new and distinctive commissions, a recommission and five new development awards from across the UK

This new slate lands following the recent success of YACF backed content such as the hugely popular Teen First Dates (E4), and as pre-school series Milo launches on Channel 5’s Milkshake! today. 

Addressing a deficit of new distinctive children’s content that inspires and reflects the lives of young people in the UK, the YACF is designed to contribute up to 50% of the production costs for projects that have secured a broadcast commitment from a free-to-access, Ofcom regulated platform, and supports producers to develop new ideas within this field. Today the YACF announced an enriching mix of animation, comedy, drama, sci-fi, political documentary and news.

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The slate marks the first time ITV2 has ordered YACF-backed content, with a brand new coming of age teen drama Tell Me Everything from Noho Films and Television. Channel 5’s Milkshake!, CITV, Channel 4, S4C and BBC ALBA all have brand new commissions within this portfolio, including a recommission of Channel 5 Milkshake!’s Go Green with the Grimwades and Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow Baby commissioned for Channel 4 as this year’s animated Christmas Special. 

MG ALBA also announce one of the largest investments in children’s content since BBC ALBA’s inception, with landmark Scottish Gaelic live-action kids’ comedy, Triùir aig Trì (Three at 3) receiving support from the YACF, heralding the advent of more new Gaelic language drama and comedy shows on BBC ALBA.

Previously announced as development projects, Pop Paper City (Milkshake!) and The Sound Collector (CITV) are today unveiled as commissions. The BFI has confirmed a 10% conversation rate of development awardees to commissions for the YACF, which is 5% higher than the industry standard, further demonstrating the positive role the YACF development support is playing. 

The production slate includes a total of 12 new production awards, resulting in 42 supported productions made to date, with spend totalling £27.1m from launch in 2019 until the end of year two. The YACF has granted 129 development awards totalling £3.3m – an average of £25,600 per award. 

Following a successful spending review, the YACF will continue into its third year and receive up to £10.7m from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for year 3 of the pilot scheme, totalling up to £44.2m for the three years. 

Head of Fund Jackie Edwards outlines the positive impact the YACF is having on producers and broadcasters alike. Speaking on the new slate she said:

We are so overjoyed that, despite the challenges of the past year, we are still continuing to make such a vital contribution to the children’s media landscape. To see all of these new unique and distinctive projects commissioned that speak to public service values and reflect and represent the UK is truly wonderful. We are thrilled that we are achieving a conversion rate of 10% of development to production, showcasing the Fund’s use of resources and the value for money within the sector. Public service content is now, more than ever, such a vital resource for young audiences, serving a range of different stories that offer a varied and broader perspective for young minds in the UK, that are free and accessible to all.

Minister for Media and Data John Whittingdale said:

I'm pleased that a new raft of exciting productions for young audiences will be brought to life through this round of awards. It is fantastic to see this publicly funded scheme continues to support homegrown talent and original TV that inspires young people and properly reflects the world they live in.

Production awards

The Young Audiences Contend Fund has awarded production funding to the following projects within this slate, summarised by broadcaster: 

Channel 5’s Milkshake!

  • 52 x 11’ vibrant pre-school mixed-media craft series Pop Paper City, produced by LoveLove Films IP and their first series commission. Pop Paper City is an innovative, vibrant 3D show that blends crafting and storytelling as it follows the adventures of a group of unique friends who live in Pop Paper City, the capital of a captivating paper world. The show’s philosophy is Creating Adventures Together. In each of the 11-minute episodes, the characters in Pop Paper City find a new way to have fun together by creating new parts of their already impressive world, using craft to overcome challenges and complete their adventure. Live action montages with a ‘Helping Hand’ within the show teach children how to make the paper creations along with the characters, encouraging ‘doing as well as viewing’ in this beautiful series.
  • Recommission of 20 x 10’ factual entertainment environmental series Go Green with the Grimwades, series 2, produced by Doc Hearts. This brand new series once again follows the influencer family, the Grimwades, as they explore easy and fun ways to be more environmentally-conscious through creative challenges, learning tasks and teamwork. The show provides diverse real-life eco-friendly experiences, key learning outcomes and stimulating interactive content for children and parents alike to do at home and was a hit with the Milkshake! audience when it launched in 2020.

Louise Bucknole, VP Programming Kids, ViacomCBS Networks International, UK & Ireland commented:

We’re delighted to be welcoming the wonderfully creative Pop Paper City to Milkshake! thanks to our ongoing partnership and support from the BFI’s Young Audience Content Fund. Pop Paper City is a unique and engaging show that blends craft and adventure that is perfect to inspire the creativity of pre-schoolers, whilst teaching them the value of friendship and teamwork and it joins a broad range of best in class UK produced kids content on Milkshake!
We’re excited to commission a second series of Go Green with the Grimwades, which had a terrific start on Milkshake! last year and inspired our viewers to do their bit for the planet. We look forward to seeing new experiences with the Grimwade family, as they share how children can easily minimise the impact we all have on the environment in a fun and accessible way to go green in their community. The recommission is a testament to the success of the BFI’s YACF initiative in bringing new and varied original UK content to the channel.

CITV

  • 10 x 30’ scripted comedy series Ted’s Top 10 produced by Zodiak Kids Studio UK, following the misadventures of Ted and his school friends and family. Ted is a typical 11-year-old boy, and starting high school for the first time, it’s his chance to make a good impression and increase his popularity. Unfortunately nothing goes to plan as all his efforts end in disaster and he is then able to recite his top ten tips on any situation, from personal experience and learning from his many mistakes.
  • 60 x 5’ stopframe and live action series The Sound Collector produced by Eagle vs Bat. The Sound Collector lives in a tiny house under an old watermill with his best friend and pet – Mole. Every day is full of potential as the Sound Collector puts in his hearing aids and headphones, grabs his mic and heads out into the world to collect sounds on his tape recorder — sounds that fascinate him and sounds that we maybe take for granted. At 6 inches high, he is full of wanderlust in a world providing a never-ending symphony for him to explore and capture one sound at a time.
  • 26 x 7’ New pre-school animation Happy (Paper Owl Films) for CITV and S4C. A series that follows the adventures of a little hedgehog called Happy. Our unlikely hero learns how to build the emotional resilience needed to ‘go with the flow’ and find a balance amid life’s noise and haste. This show tells us all that it’s OK not to be OK… and importantly it offers ways to cope when challenging feelings get in the way: building strong friendships and realising that those challenging moments will pass. But of course good moments don’t last for ever either, so if we have a good feeling, we should share it. Because the more we share our good feelings, the more good feelings there are in the world.

ITV2

  • 6x60’ coming of age darkly comic teen drama Tell Me Everything produced by ITV Studios and Noho Film and Television for ITV2 and ITV Hub. Brimming with heart, laughs, pathos and gut-punches, tenderness and darkness, Tell Me Everything is a six part drama exploring the stresses to mental health for today’s teens created by the omnipresence of technology and social media, whilst they are still searching for their own identity, exploring sexuality, and experimenting with relationships, drink, drugs and sex (as well as what to wear tonight). Rooted in truthful observations about life as it actually is for young people, Tell Me Everything is a celebration of adolescence, without shying away from the difficult subjects facing teens as they grow up in the 2020s.

ITV’s Director of Digital Channels Paul Mortimer said:

ITV is thrilled to be continuing its partnership with the YACF to be able to bring more UK made, domestically targeted free-to-air content to our younger audiences. In both scripted and non-scripted and live action and animation, our brands ITV2, CITV and LittleBe continue to be enriched by series only made possible by the Fund.

Channel 4

  • Animated Christmas special based on Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow baby. Produced by Eagle Eye Drama, the production company recently launched by the team behind global drama brand Walter Presents. The animated Christmas special is based on a short story from a bestselling book of Christmas tales (Father Christmas’ Fake Beard) by one of Britain’s most illustrious and well-loved authors, Sir Terry Pratchett. The magic of Terry Pratchett, the legendary national treasure and maverick British author who sold over 100m books worldwide and has been translated in 40 languages, comes to life in this half-hour programme. The Abominable Snow-Baby tells the story of a quintessentially English town which is thrown into disarray by a huge snowfall and the dramatic appearance of a 14-feet tall Abominable Snow-Baby. 

Channel 4 Head of Drama, Caroline Hollick said:

Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow Baby is a magnificent, heart-warming, riotously funny story about love, courage and compassion. Witty, entertaining and deeply moving in equal measure, it captures the spirit of Christmas with Sir Terry’s unique charm.

BBC ALBA

  • 8 x 15’ comedy drama, Triùir aig Trì (Three at 3), produced by Sorbier Productions. A quirky children’s comedy drama set in an eccentric island B&B. Number 3 might not be the poshest B&B on the island – but it’s the most welcoming. Or at least that’s what 10-year old Della and her younger sister Lou want their guests to feel. It’s just that there aren’t that many guests, and their father Mata, who’s supposed to be in charge, is a bit…well,  absent-minded. So Della and Lou are on a mission – to make No. 3 a roaring success. And with the help of their new friend Marco and a host of other madcap characters (human and animal) they take on all the hilarious challenges that the hospitality business can throw at them.
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  • 1 x 15’ children’s drama Am Piàno (The Piano), produced by MacTV. A surreal story about a girl whose world is turned upside down when an old piano that her dad salvages takes on a life of its own…10-year old Anna hates pianos. It’s her birthday and her mother, a concert pianist, is away on an international tour. So when Anna’s father salvages an old, battered upright piano she makes him lock it in the tool shed. But Anna is about to discover that the piano is not what it seems in this sweetly surreal story about the power of love and music.

Commissioning Editor for BBC ALBA Bill MacLeod said:

When I first read the scripts for Trùir aig Trì I thought they were just about the funniest things I‘d ever read. I laughed myself silly – and I think that kids watching this marvellously madcap series will too. They’ll also be captivated by the magical, surreal world of Am Piàno – a short film in which an old, battered upright takes on a life of its own. Neither of these Gaelic children’s projects could have been possible without brilliant writers, actors, directors and producers – the very best in the business, in my opinion. But I’m also hugely grateful to the Young Audiences Content Fund, without whose generous support these original and distinctive children’s TV programmes could simply never have been made.

S4C

  • 6 x 30’ Teen sci-fi series Y Goleudy (The Lighthouse), produced by Boom Cymru. A sci-fi drama series for children aged 10 years of age, set in a seaside surfing village in west Wales with a bunch of young people. There are very strange things happening in the area —  what’s the crazy force in The Lighthouse?
  • 9 x 5’ Teen live action series Election 21: If I were the First Minister… produced by ITV Broadcasting which is currently on air. With the voting age lowered to 16 at the Parliamentary Election in Wales, what influence will the vote of young people have on May 6th? Young voices from across the country have their say on Welsh politics.
  • 8 x 20’ Children’s Drama and Animation series Dwdl a Fi, produced by Cynhyrchiadau Ceidiog Creations Cyf. A new drama and animation series featuring Dwdl – an animated character helping children to deal with mental health issues. Based on real life experiences and using a blend of dramatic live action and surreal animation the series will raise awareness of mental health conditions, such as anxiety, lack of confidence, OCD , Grief and PTSD and discuss different ways of dealing with those conditions and the emotions they cause.
  • 26 x 7’ New pre-school animation Happy (Paper Owl Films) for CITV and S4C. A series that follows the adventures of a little hedgehog called Happy. Our unlikely hero learns how to build the emotional resilience needed to ‘go with the flow’ and find a balance amid life’s noise and haste. This show tells us all that it’s OK not to be OK… and importantly it offers ways to cope when challenging feelings get in the way: building strong friendships and realising that those challenging moments will pass. But of course good moments don’t last for ever either, so if we have a good feeling, we should share it. Because the more we share our good feelings, the more good feelings there are in the world.

Sioned Wyn Roberts, S4C’s Children Commissioner said:

We are delighted to announce a range of brand new series for children and young people in Wales. Our latest programmes include appealing and timely series that address important topics such as mental health and emotional well-being in a subtle and fun way. From sci-fi to the election to wellbeing - our new slate of productions are diverse and inclusive and will inform, educate and captivate our young audiences. We are extremely grateful to the Young Audiences Content Fund for their support in enabling us to bring these productions to life on screen.

Development awards

The Young Audiences Contend Fund has awarded development funding to the following projects within this slate:

Documentary ‘Protest’ (Awen Productions)

Marking the 40th anniversary of the Greenham Common Protest, seen through the eyes of the new generation of female activists.

Children’s situation comedy ‘Idris’ Life’ (ChorMedia)

Idris’s Life is a children’s sitcom following the journey of 13-year-old Idris, a first generation Lebanese British Muslim boy with autism, and his everyday life at home and school during the mid 90’s in Hounslow, West London. Written by Mustapha Kseibati.

Bold factual series ‘Asking for a Friend (w/t)’ produced by BiLLO Studio Ltd

Asking for a Friend is a bold factual series tackling the delicate subjects of sexual relationships, health, and identity for young people. Covering much more than parents and schools may be willing or able to discuss, the series brings together science, technology, and real world situations to rewrite the story of sex. Breaking misconceptions, ignorance, and taboos along the way, Asking for a Friend is set to be a landmark series of record for current and future generations.

Darkly funny young adult drama ‘(Dis)Harmony’ produced by Headline Pictures

Brimming with music both classical and modern, (Dis)Harmony is a young adult comedy drama charting the lives and loves, the backstabbing and bad behaviour, of an Edinburgh-based youth orchestra. Focussing on 16-year-old twins Nic and Callie, we see them take sibling rivalry to a whole new level as they jostle for position within the orchestra and compete for the attention of the same girl. But things will shift between the twins as they deal with the sudden illness of their dad, the return of their estranged mum, and as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to be. Written by Cat Clarke.

Children’s comedy drama ‘Ready to Launch’ (276 Productions)

Everyone has heard of the new social gaming app taking the world by storm, but nobody knows it’s run by two twelve-year-old girls. BFFs + CEOs = Major OMGs! Ready to Launch follows a group of friends in Wakefield as they juggle global tech success with an equally tough problem – year 7 geography. Negotiating with Silicon Valley investors isn’t simple when your parents have just landed you with a three-week screen ban. Zuckerberg had it easy. Combining live action and in-game animation, as well as cameos from real life tech heroes (with an emphasis on inspirational female entrepreneurs), Ready to Launch follows its diverse young characters as they come together to use code, creativity and plenty of crisps to take on the world. Written by Beth Garrod and Jess Hitchman.

Find out more about the Young Audiences Content Fund.