Report – Commissioner Conversation PSB and YACF
- All PSB broadcasters are commissioning content after the disrupted year of Covid.
- Channels are looking to on-demand to help broaden opportunities for youth content.
- YACF has helped all commercial PSB channels widen their commissioning remit, serve new audiences, and work with new creators.
- Live-action content is broadly favoured by the commissioners because it can better represent the UK’s diversity of young people.
Chris Jarvis introduced the contributors: Louise Bucknole (for Channel 5’s Milkshake!), Jackie Edwards (YACF), Sioned Wyn Roberts (S4C), and Paul Mortimer (ITV).
Jackie presented the successes of the fund, now in its second year, and praised the level of industry engagement. She announced that a full evaluation report will be presented to DCMS in the autumn and will be fed into the government’s spending review.
- The production fund has issued £27.1m to 42 projects
- The development fund has issued £3.3m to 114 projects
- 70% of productions have been outside London
- 99% of development funds have supported new voices
- Several projects have already been recommissioned due to audience numbers
- 62% of productions focused on specific community or regional identity
- In its first year, only 6% of awardees were from underrepresented communities, but this year that figure has risen to 20%
- The programme has been critical to upskilling and levelling-up regions outside London and the Southeast.
Jackie is hopeful that the fund would prove its worth and continue, despite the cut in funding recently. The government’s spending review in the autumn will be critical.
Sioned explained that the channel is currently commissioning content for preschool, 7-12s and 13-16s (with YACF support). A new commissioner will take over on September 1, 2021. The channel will be exploring a new strategy to engage 8-12s. Currently, they are working with young YouTubers to make content for the channel. The channel has also recently been expanding its 13-16 engagement and is launching 2 new shows with YACF support.
S4C has no development money, so YACF development is an important resource. Sioned has been impressed by the quality of the shows being presented to them.
Paul explained that production for live-action kids’ content has been especially hard hit by Covid, but productions are restarting and they’re looking for new projects – live action and animation for 6-12s, in particular. The channel favours live action because it allows kids to see themselves represented on screen. In particular, the channel is interested in content that is regional, working class, aspirational and irreverent. Paul named the channel’s kids’ specialists as Emma Lewis, Darren Nartay and Simon Tompkins, all of whom can advise producers on kids’ pitches.
Paul praised the YACF, which has led to an increase in ITV’s kids’ budget so that it has a pot of match funding. YACF has been involved in 8 new productions (2 preschool, 5 for CITV, and 1 teen drama).
Milkshake! (Channel 5, ViacomCBS)
Louise explained that she has a target of producing 50 hours of original UK content this year. Currently, there are 2 new animations and a live-action drama in production. YACF has been instrumental in new content, including ‘Go Green with the Grimwades’. Her team is looking for animated or live-action for the 2-5 audience that is 5, 7 or 11 minutes long. Ideally, content should be diverse (on and off screen), full of lovable characters with international appeal (shown via Nick Jnr), have heart and humour, promote healthy lifestyles,reference early years play patterns, and make kids feel. Importantly, producers should be passionate about their project and characters. Anyone wanting to discuss projects can contact Louise, or her colleague Louise Burgess. The Channel 5 website has commissioning information and an email for creators.
Louise credited YACF with helping C5 broaden its scope. It is now working on a new disability project, programmes about global cultures and more factual entertainment. They are also able to work with more first-time producers. ‘Pop Paper City’ was one YACF show they are especially proud of.
Points raised by the Q&A:
- S4C welcomes projects that are not offered by Welsh language producers – from the UK and beyond.
- ITV is broadening its on-demand offer and are becoming less restricted with regard to commissioning. Non-linear viewing is opening opportunities for more factual and social-purpose content.
- There is general concern about the future of YACF and what losing it would mean for audiences and the UK production sector.
- Advice for pitching shows to S4C: watch the channel so that you don’t pitch similar projects, pitch in person if possible, and arrive with a whole package that’s right for the audience.
- YACF will not accept pitches prior to application (although applicants can ask questions). Applicants should use the online application process.
- Channel 5 wants unique content and to see the passion/belief of the creators. Test the concept on kids first. Early-stage ideas are as welcome as are fully developed pitches.
Little Radio Productions
ViacomCBS Networks International
VP, Programming Kids, VCNI UK & Ireland
BFI, Young Audiences Content Fund
Head of Fund
Content Director, On Demand & Acquisitions
Sioned Wyn Roberts
Content Commissioner, Children's & Learning
King Bee Animation
Founder & Director