Head of the BFI-administered Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF) Jackie Edwards has issued a renewed call out to production companies and producers to pitch their ideas to secure funding for projects that fulfil the fund’s criteria of reflecting the lives of children and young people in the UK, screening on free-to-air, public service broadcasting channels. The call comes following Jackie Edwards’ speech today at the Children’s Media Conference alongside key broadcaster commissioners.

The YACF is currently in year three of its three-year pilot and was set up to address a deficit of new distinctive children’s content that inspires and reflects the lives of young people in the UK. The fund 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 also supporting producers to develop new ideas within this field.

The fund has been praised across the industry for its efforts and impact across the children’s sector. Since its launch, the YACF has revivified and broadened the commissioning landscape by delivering a distinctive and wide variety of programmes, spanning all genres and age groups, brought to life on screen. Crucially, the YACF has helped vital but hard to fund projects close finance and progress to greenlight stage; projects that would likely not have reached that stage without the fund. The fund has also brought fairness and equivalence to the children’s sector by insisting on industry standards found commonplace in other areas of the television industry, not least in pay, and making considerable contributions to the National Skills Fund. The YACF’s recent slates evidence their commitment to making sustainable productions and promoting diversity and inclusion behind the camera as well as on screen.

Projects the fund has backed so far during its pilot include Milkshake!’s Go Green With The Grimwades and Mimi’s World, CITV’s HOW and Don’t Unleash The Beast, Channel 4’s Quentin Blake’s Clown, E4’s Teen First Dates, Letters In Lockdown and Rap Therapy and indigenous language content such as SOL, the animated series on grief which aired across BBC ALBA, S4C and TG4. Recommissions include FYI News specials with Sky Kids, whilst fund-backed content has received awards recognition from the Royal Television Society (How), Sandford St Martins (Sol) and nominations at Rose d’Or (FYI Investigates), Banff (Sol and FYI Investigates) and the Broadcast Awards (FYI Investigates).

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Jackie Edwards said:

“We’re still accepting submissions for funding through the Young Audiences Content Fund and continue our drive to support projects that connect with young audiences in the UK in a manner that has declined in recent years. We have seen the impact of this decline as the engagement of young audiences with public service content has reduced in recent years, but the fund backed projects illustrate that when high quality, representative shows are made, young audiences will watch. The fund exists for all producers across the television sector, no matter the size of the production company, location or prior experience in children’s programming, so long as the idea is a great one and meets our criteria.”

The full impact of the first two years of the pilot will be revealed later this year with the hope that the fund will continue for a fourth year and beyond, supporting the ongoing creation of original programming for young audiences at a time when there has been a decline in such original programming in the UK.

Despite the challenging economic circumstances, the Young Audiences Content Fund will still receive up to £10.7 million in its third year of the pilot following a successful spending review, with Baroness Baron MBE of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport commenting that, “although assessment of the funds is ongoing, the Year One review sets out a number of successes for the fund.”

Similarly, a DCMS report in March referenced the success of the fund and pointed to its possible future beyond the pilot, observing: “We are pleased that Ofcom highlighted the deficits in children’s programming across the PSB portfolios in 2018 and consider it vitally important that it continues to keep PSB performance in this area under regular review. We recommend that the government evaluate the success of the Young Audiences Content Fund against its goals and extend the scheme if it is found to be increasing the investment in original content for children in the UK.”

In conjunction with the fund, the BFI recently launched the second See Yourself on Screen Challenge. Judged by TV personality Konnie Huq, the challenge invites 4 to 18-year-olds across the UK to create an idea for a mini TV show to win the chance to be mentored by a range of high profile celebrities, which this year includes Vick Hope, Jamie Laing and Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, to win the chance for the show to be premiered on national TV (the deadline for entries is 11th July at 6pm, – visit www.bfi.org.uk/seeyourselfonscreen for more information).