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BBC licence deal ‘bad for children’s TV’

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BBC Children’s management being quizzed by TBI at CMC

The Children’s Media Foundation, a UK advocacy group, says the license fee agreement hammered out between the BBC and the UK government is “a bad deal for the nation’s children”.

The BBC this week agreed to foot the £600 million-750 million (US$923 million-US$1.5 billion) cost of providing a free TV license for over-75s in return for a licence fee pegged to inflation.

With all of the public service broadcaters in the UK aside from the BBC largely pulling out of UK-originated kids programming, the CMF said the new deal was not a good one for the UK kids business and for younger viewers.

“Despite assurances that this is a good deal for the BBC that will ensure its stability, the CMF remains concerned about the impact on services, particularly in genres like children’s which have already see a decline in content investment by PSB broadcasters that has dropped by 95 per cent since 2003 to 2013,” the group said.

It added: “With the BBC’s spend down by eleven per cent during the same period, with more cuts on the way and given that the BBC is the sole commissioner of PSB content for kids, this can only be a bad deal for the nation’s children.”

The CMF said it was “shocked” by the licence fee deal and the lack of consultation with the public and stakeholders. “The announcement was made despite a promised public consultation, which means that those who pay for the BBC or organisations like CMF which speak for those without a voice – such as children – have not been heard,” it said.

The BBC said last week it remains completely committed to UK-originated kids programming, but that many of its plans were contingent upon a decent licence fee settlement.

BBC management said the deal agreed this week was a good one for the Corporation, but the CMF noted it is not convinced that is the case.

CMF chair Anna Home said: “If BBC budgets are cut, then the entirety of culturally specific programming for children will be diminished. This is not like other genres, like sport, entertainment or drama, where competitors, PSB and non-PSB, can be expected to fill the gap. Without significant BBC funding, children’s programmes in the UK will whither away, as no-other organisation is prepared to step up and fund UK-focused content.”