Report – Question Time
- The loss of YACF may have significant cultural implications for children’s programming.
- The sell-off of Channel 4 also represents a major challenge for indie production companies.
- The changes at CBBC could have a big impact on diversity and inclusion, especially if there is a cut to live-action production.
- Streaming platforms still offer exciting opportunities for British-made content, and Netflix is where the 13-16 audience is right now, with shows like ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Heartstoppers’.
C21’s Nico Franks chaired a panel consisting of Maddy Darrall (Darrall McQueen), Marc Goodchild (Connected Ideas), Seetha Kumar (ScreenSkills), Franz Osman (Gold Wala) and Mikael Shields (Acamar Films).
The questions, from both the live and virtual audience, ranged from concerns about the ending of the Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF), to the sell-off of Channel 4 and the proposed move of CBBC from linear television.
On the topic of YACF:
Maddy expressed concern that the end of YACF could harm kids, culturally speaking, due to loss of content that only the fund would support. Mikael suggested the fund could be saved if political support could be found, although a reprieve was unlikely under the current UK administration. Faraz stated that it is less likely the fund would come back during what is commonly called ‘the golden age of television’.
Seetha suggested the industry needs more clarity about what we mean by ‘public service’, but Marc questioned how that could be effective, saying, ‘We’ve got new ministers who don’t know about the problems of the industry.’
Nico wondered if ITV would continue to commission children’s without YACF. Marc thought this was unlikely in a fragmenting advertising environment.
There was concern among panellists about the future of Channel 4. Maddy said that losing C4 would remove 50% of funding for indies and that a privatised C4 would want to focus on building up its IP. Mikael stated his belief that children’s content was always under threat and that C4 would be compelled to be something different. Faraz expressed a desire for change but thought that the proposal was in the wrong direction and that C4 should focus on areas neglected by BBC.
Panellists were wary of CBBC’s move to iPlayer and concerned to have more clarity around the move of BBC Children’s Production to BBC Studios – there was uncertainly as to how tat would impact the independent sector, and the production of animation – and there was some corn that the new policy to prioritise animation would inevitably mean less money for live action production. Faraz stated, ‘Live action is important for reflecting culture and diversity.’ This was challenged by Mikael, who stated his belief that there is little distinction between live action and animation, saying that he was as proud of ‘Bing’ as any live action he’d worked on. Seetha was more supportive of the CBBC move to iPlayer, saying: ‘Every home needs to have internet access, but moving CBBC online kind of makes sense,’ later adding that the move could free up more budget. But the panel agreed that ‘discoverability’ of content by kids was going to be an issue after the switch.
Despite the decline of linear broadcasting, streaming is currently facing issues. For example, Netflix subscriptions could fall now that ‘Stranger Things’ has ended. Nevertheless, as Maddy pointed out, Netflix is still where the 13-16s are these days, with appealing shows like ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Heartstoppers’.
To round up, Nico asked for reasons to be cheerful, and Maddy suggested looking to the future. France and Canada are making deals with the streamers, and it could be an exciting time for British-made content.
Editor of Channel 21 International Magazine & Senior Reporter
Connected Ideas Limited
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