New legislation set to increase UK investment in homegrown children’s TV

Ofcom will soon have powers to encourage broadcasters to spend more money on British productions aimed at younger viewers

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UK public service broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – may soon be called upon to make greater investment in homegrown children’s TV shows, thanks to new legislation backed by peers including former Play School presenter Baroness Floella Benjamin.

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The Digital Economy Act will give media regulator Ofcom the power to encourage broadcasters to put more cash into British-made children’s productions, an area the watchdog has identified as in decline. 

“Programmes for young people play a central role in public service broadcasting,” an Ofcom spokesperson told RadioTimes.com. “We’ve identified children’s programmes as being in decline over recent years, and we have proposed rules around the BBC’s content in particular to help address that.”

“I am grateful to the broadcasters for working with me on this as it gives them the opportunity to make a difference,” said Baroness Benjamin. “I know that if all parts of the industry work together and if we get this right, we can lift the lid on a huge well of untapped potential existing in our creative industries and once again create the world-renowned programming – and even more of it – that our children and grandchildren deserve. It is my mission in life to make children’s lives happy.” 

Teletubbies co-creator Anne Wood, who has worked on numerous other children’s shows also including Rosie and Jim and In the Night Garden, added: “I am very lucky to have had some success in children’s television. Unfortunately, it is far less common now for new exciting children’s programmes to get through to British screens. There has been a 93% decline in children’s programming made by commercial PSBs. On this trajectory British-made children’s programmes are set for extinction.”

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Ofcom’s next step is to enter into discussions with the major public service broadcasters and the children’s production sector about the scope of their new powers. It’s expected that discussions will take place after the General Election.