Popular program supporting creation of high-quality content for young audiences concludes its 3-year run on February 25; concerns include impact on training as well as industry wide talent shortages and workforce development.
In 2019 the BFI launched the U.K. Government’s Young Audiences Content Fund to support the creation of high quality new programming for children and young audiences (up to the age of 18), to free-to-access Ofcom regulated television and online platforms. The goal of the Fund was to directly address a historic lack of investment in content creation for this age group.
Responding to the announcement, Tom Box, Chair of the ScreenSkills Animation Skills Fund, and Richard Bradley, co-chair of the Children's TV Skills Fund, said in a joint statement:
"We join our colleagues across industry in expressing disappointment at the decision to close the YAC Fund. As chairs of the skills funds responsible for developing the talent who make shows for young audiences, we are particularly concerned at the impact this will have on supporting workforce development.
The current crew shortages are well-known and the associated increase in rates is having a particular impact on smaller, lower budget productions - exactly the sort of content supported by the YAC fund.
The YAC fund was purposefully designed to support British-created content for young audiences that expressed British cultural values and gave voice to a full range of British communities. Children's content that expresses those perspectives, made specifically for our young people, faces strong competition from international content made for global audiences which makes the closure of the fund particularly damaging."
Box and Bradley went on to comment on the commitment to training as part of the funding conditions and the probable impact on production planning and budgeting, as well as ScreenSkill’s industry engagement and impact on short- and long-term solutions to shortages.
They continued, "Ultimately any reduction in support for ideas being developed and made for young audiences is of concern, but it will also impact the Skills Funds' ability to invest in skills and training for people making content for young audiences and to engage with those thinking about a career in this often overlooked but critically important part of the screen industries."
In BFI’s announcement about the closure of the YAC fund, it noted, "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 fund has supported the UK's production community with 144 development projects, and 55 productions ranging from Teen First Dates (E4) to sustainable craft show Makeaway Takeaway (CITV) and The World According the Grandpa (Milkshake!), as well as new projects in indigenous languages such as Sol- a film on grief created for the Celtic languages Irish (TG4), Scottish Gaelic (BBC ALBA) and Welsh (S4C). Projects have won a string of awards and secured sales to countries around the word.