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DCMS announces £60m fund to be split between radio and youth content

DCMS building

Broadcasters will be able to apply for funds to produce programming for young audiences and public service audio content.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has confirmed how £60million, unspent from the previous licence fee settlement is to be allocated. In a change to the original proposals, it has confirmed that:

  • Up to £57 million will be assigned to a "Young Audiences Content Fund" to support public service content for audiences up to 18.
  • Up to £3 million will be assigned to an "Audio Content Fund" to support all public service audio content on radio.

The Young Audiences Content Fund will be administered by the BFI. The BFI work across film, television and animation and has significant experience in the administration of public funds.

The Audio Content Fund will be administered by an independent not-for-profit organisation created by Radiocentre (the industry body for commercial radio) and AudioUK. 

Noting how the majority of public service content is delivered by the BBC, the DCMS said that the Audio Content Fund "will encourage greater innovation and experimentation, with the pressure taken off commercial stations and producers to seek sponsorship and advertising revenue. The fund will provide significant support to radio producers seeking to try something different, particularly new voices who do not have an established relationship with broadcasters, and therefore lack access to funding."

Regarding the Young Audiences Content Fund, the DCMS statement added: "The BBC is now the dominant buyer and broadcaster of UK children’s content. In 2016, the BBC accounted for 87% of all first-run UK originated children’s programming by public service broadcasters . This market concentration is unhealthy for competition and content 5 diversity and at odds with the UK’s plural public service broadcasting system. Whilst the BBC shows high-quality content through CBBC and CBeebies, this fund aims to increase new voices, ideas, and content. To directly combat this decline in content for younger people in the UK, the Young Audiences Content Fund will focus on supporting an influx of new creative and distinctive content that represents UK children and teenagers today."

Margot James, the Minister for Digital and Creative Industries said:
The broadcasting landscape is changing fast. Audiences are engaging with content in a variety of new and different ways. Increasingly viewers and listeners, especially young people, are consuming content online, on smartphones and on unregulated platforms. 
As the industry changes, it is the government’s priority to ensure that the UK’s public service broadcasting system continues to thrive. In order to do so, it must continue to provide a diverse offering of high-quality content that its audience deserves. In this digital world, the safety of children and the provision of appropriate content for young audiences is of ever increasing importance. 
Young people should have access to high-quality UK content that entertains and informs, that truly reflects their lives and experiences, and they should be able to do so in an environment where they are protected. It is vital that public service content continues to evolve in order to meet that demand, and to keep engaging the audiences of the future. 
Radio also plays a major role in entertaining and sharing news to millions of people every day. But due to commercial pressures, the scope of public service content on commercial radio, outside of national and local news, has been limited. We want to support radio producers and broadcasters to develop an underserved market that will bring a broader range of high-quality content to new listeners. I am proud to be able to trial this new way of funding targeted public service content.  
By establishing new funding avenues for content creators, the Contestable Fund will provide opportunities for those seeking to bring innovative ideas to the marketplace. As a result, this pilot will support new and diverse content for audiences, whilst simultaneously supporting the UK’s dynamic and growing production sector. The UK broadcasting and production sectors are world renowned, and a success story to be proud of. I am excited to be introducing such an innovative project that will support the UK’s vibrant media sectors as it continues to go from strength to strength. It is a great privilege to be involved in the delivery of content that will be designed to delight the next generation of children and young people, some of which will surely create lifelong memories. "

Further guidance, including how to apply, will be published by the fund administrators in early 2019. The pilot Contestable Fund will be open for funding applications in April 2019.

But the BBC has warned the the money might go to foreign companies, such as Netflix and Amazon, questioning whether this was the best use of money.

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