Children suffer as post-Covid cuts destroy content funding by Blue Zoo Co-founder, Oli Hyatt

I believe that children's content on PSB’s do more good than all the other genres put together. Children might be 19% of the population, but they are 100% of our future.” Blue Zoo Co-founder and MBE, Oli Hyatt, warns against post-Covid cuts to content funding

Oli Hyatt MBE

COVID has taken so much from us for 18 months. Our freedom, our children's education, and for some, their businesses and, tragically, their loved ones. 

But amongst the negative, we saw shining light of humanity, small acts of kindness, community, and people stepping up around the world to change overnight how they lived, and how they helped others live.

One of these beacons was undoubtedly a fresh realisation on the importance of media as a tool to educate and entertain, especially for our littlest of learners.

Numberblocks aims to make maths fun

Our PSB’s became the centrepiece for children's days, and parents found a new appreciation for the whole suite of programming they already carried as well as the amazing content they pulled together for lockdowns. 

So it is with great sadness that I look across the post-pandemic landscape and see the very mechanisms and funding that supported that content, promotes excellence in that content, and funds the development of that content have been cut AGAIN. 

BBC Cuts - The BBC are hacking more off one of their most poorly funded departments. In an environment where the BBC has been forced to fund things more commercially, surely we have to say enough is enough. They must fund this department properly and shouldn't be resorting to commercialising children. Give the department what it needs to produce the fantastic content that did so much for children in lockdown. The ongoing cuts show scant regard for the vital role it has played in our lives for the past 18 months. 

YACF - DCMS recently announced the news that it plans to claw back £13m of the Young Audiences Content Fund reducing the overall grant to the Fund from £57m to £44m. This is a cut of 25%. While other nations helped the production sector buy increasing tax credits, and other subsidies to attract work, our government did not. The effects of that neglect will be felt in the coming years, but more importantly and disgracefully, rather than help, they have now cut the budget of what we thought was ring-fenced money to support children's content. It feels petty and ridiculously short-sighted. The government is damaging their own pilot scheme. Literally taking money away from children and changing their life outcomes, no less serious than that. Does Boris think about that while he pastes up his £840 per roll wallpaper in his flat?

BAFTA - when times are hard you pull together and do what you can for everyone, and BAFTA have continued to run many programs and have developed online strands across the full range of it’s awards. However, one set of awards was pulled completely, and it doesn't take much guesswork to work out which one. Childrens. I fear with a loss of impetus it will be canceled again this year. These awards are a symbol of achievement in a vastly underfunded genre.They give visibility of all the world-class kids TV work created by the UK, as ever, punching well above its weight. Lack of awards means a perceived lack in value that only serves to push us down the funding queue.

I believe that children's content on PSB’s do more good than all the other genres put together. Children might be 19% of the population, but they are 100% of our future. The people that make that content should be awarded and be shouted about. 

There is a large review of children PSB’s now taking place. But this is about more than that, it's about a fundamental question on the value of children and how we protect them from commercialism, online threats, and provide them with everything they need to grow and thrive. The walled garden of PSB’s provides the safe space, we need to recognise and reward the value of that as well as the value of the content they fund.

"But what about Cbeebies?" 

I believe the public will back this stance. I will finish this by sharing with you a small conversation I found on a forum titled “defund the BBC”. The first 1000 posts were an echo-chamber of anti-BBC sentiment, shocking to read, but like a car crash, I couldn't look away. Then there came one statement that shone out of the darkness:

"But what about Cbeebies?" 

Then, as if by magic, a calm befell the angry group and each in turn agreed that "obviously" you can't defund Cbeebies. Quickly, their vitriol turned into, “which is better, Hey Duggee or Numberblocks?”, with some arguing that perhaps Cbeebies alone was worth the licence fee. There was a sense of joyous unfettered appreciation of what we did for children, that they felt for no other part of the BBC.

Soon enough someone mentioned what Mr Tumbles salary might look like next to Gary Lineker's and it all descended back into chaos. But, in that calm eye of the anti-BBC storm, perhaps they came to heart of what and who PSB’s are for. 

Children and the industry that supports their content deserve better.