The UK government has decided not to continue with the Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF) beyond its three-year pilot stage, with no further funding to be made available after February 2022.
The fund, which was launched in 2019 by the British Film Institute (BFI), made tens of millions of pounds available to local firms, contributing up to 50% of the production costs on projects to support the creation of new programming for children and young audiences aged up to 18.
The three-year pilot was part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Contestable Fund, and aimed to support free-to-access Ofcom regulated television and online platforms with new projects, while addressing a historic lack of investment in content creation for the age group.
In a statement, the BFI commented: “We are incredibly proud of what the BFI Young Audiences Content Fund has achieved in three years. It has given young people all over the UK the opportunity to watch and engage with original UK programming on free-to-access, regulated platforms, reflecting their lives, hopes and fears, and educating, entertaining and inspiring them.”
The BFI added that the fund had helped to support the UK’s production community and enabled “greater opportunity and creativity” on 144 development projects, while 55 productions had benefited, ranging from E4’s Teen First Dates to The World According The Grandpa on Milkshake!.
Caroline Roberts-Cherry, MD of Saffron Cherry Productions, which is behind The World According The Grandpa, told TBI in 2020 that the show “wouldn’t have happened” without the YACF support.
A total of 24 projects back by the YACF are still in production and set to air in the UK over the next two years.
The Children’s Media Foundation says that discontinuing the YACF is “a short-sighted failure on the part of the policy makers at the DCMS” and has called upon UK Secretary of State, Nadine Dorries, to reverse the decision.
Foundation chair Anna Home said that the YACF had “more than proved its worth” and warned that the UK faces “a definite decrease in the number and range of programmes being made for young people in the UK.”
She further cautioned that: “We could very quickly be back where we started three years ago – with the BBC as the only body commissioning content for children – and in fact it’s worse as the BBC is facing government-imposed budget cuts of its own over the next few years too.”
The Children’s Media Foundation previously spoke out against the DCMS last year when it announced plans to take back £13m from the YACF, reducing it from £57m to £44m. At the time it criticised the department’s decision as “petty-minded and illogical” and urged the government to extend the YACF for a fourth year and reinstate its full funding.