The BBC is to reinvent its service for the next generation, investing a further £34m over the next three years.
The reasons for this is that British children’s programmes have been in decline for the past ten years, with ITV output reducing from 424 hours in 1998 to just 64 in 2013. The younger generation consumes content primarily online, which differs from previous generations, so a new system has to be adopted. The money will come from reinvestment across the BBC, increasing the children’s programme budget from £110m to £124.4 by 2019-20, with a commitment to spend a quarter of that online. The aim is to keep in pace with children using digital devices, therefore £31.4m will be spent on producing video, live online programme extensions, blogs, podcasts, quizzes and apps. The overwhelming majority will be spent on CBeebies and CBBC.
The BBC are exploring how new technologies can enhance how consumers access services and discover new content. Unless they want more of our culture shaped and defined by the rise of American companies such as Netflix and Amazon, the BBC needs to invest in British content, particularly for the younger generation. If they wish to remain at the cutting edge they need to develop new technologies in virtual reality, voice activation and artificial intelligence.
This announcement is good news for Greater Manchester’s creative and digital industries because BBC Children is based in Salford Quays next to the MediaCityUK campus. The University of Salford works closely with the BBC and is excited that there will be investment in their area of expertise.
Ofcom report that only £77m was spent on first-run British children’s programmes in 2015, against £140m ten years before. Channel 5 fell from 353 hours to 30, and Channel four has fallen from 49 hours to zero. The BBC is responsible for 97% of first-run British children’s programming. Ofcom have now taken over governance of the BBC and have stated that CBBC needs to broadcast a minimum of 400 hours and CBeebies at least 100 hours of new commissioned British programming next year.