BBC pledges £25.5m for children's output

Friday, October 23 2009,

The BBC Executive has pledged an additional investment of £25.5m in its children's output following recommendations by the BBC Trust.

Published back in February, the Trust's report praised the output of the BBC's children's services for its high quality, but also expressed concerns at "key budgetary pressures" that threatened to hinder future performance.

In response, the corporation has set aside £25.5m in funding to secure more first-run content for CBBC over the next three years. A firm action plan has also been formulated to boost the BBC online audio offering aimed at children.

The BBC further intends to inject an extra £1m to arrest the decline in usage of the CBBC website, with the target of increasing weekly unique users by 900,000 by April next year.

Winning back audiences lost when children's programming is shifted to earlier in the BBC One schedule will now become a priority, including the development of a new half-hour daytime show to air at 5.30pm on weekdays.

Welcoming the response, BBC Trustee and review author Mehmuda Mian said: "I am confident that the Executive's response to our recommendations will strengthen children's broadcasting which we believe lies at the heart of the BBC's public service remit.

"The Trust report has led to additional funding of £25.5 million, which will ease budgetary pressures and provide more money for children's programmes. Alongside our other recommendations this money will help ensure that the BBC remains a cornerstone of high-quality, UK-produced children's content."

Last month, the BBC revealed plans to launch a new Red Button interactive service for CBeebies, including games and features aimed at children under 6.

BBC Vision director Jana Bennett said that she is "incredibly proud of the creative strength of CBeebies and CBBC", including the value that UK-produced programming brings to children.

"The Trust did identify some areas for improvement and these initiatives have been developed to meet two key challenges," she said.

"Firstly, that the children's industry is facing pressure at this time, particularly financially, and I believe the BBC has a unique role in making sure children receive high-quality, British content.

"And secondly that children are at the vanguard of digital media adoption and consumption and expect to be served in a focused way on digital television as well as by on-demand and internet content."

Despite its praise for the corporation's efforts, the Trust will continue to closely monitor the progress made with children's output going forward.