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Thursday 24 Apr 2014

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BBC commits to strengthening Children's services

Jana Bennett, Director BBC Vision, today welcomed the BBC Trust's endorsement of a package of initiatives designed to strengthen the role of the BBC as the cornerstone of home-produced children's output in the UK.

In response to the Trust's recommendations laid out in February 2009, the package aims to reinforce the creative strength of BBC Children's and help the CBBC channel maintain its position.

Jana Bennett said: "February's review by the Trust found that the BBC's services and content for children were performing strongly. They congratulated the BBC for delivering popular children's content which successfully entertains a wide audience and at the same time makes an important contribution to the BBC's public purposes.

"I am incredibly proud of the creative strength of CBeebies and CBBC and the unique value to children they bring. They empower, entertain and reflect the lives of children in this country through consistently high-quality, home-grown programmes.

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

The package includes:

  • An additional investment of £25.5 million over three years
  • Focus on the internet for children's audio content
  • A plan to increase the budget of the Children's websites by £1m to help build quality and reach
  • Continued monitoring of the CBBC block of programmes on BBC One together with a development of a daytime show that could play for half an hour at 5.30pm weekdays. If one is found and is successful, over the next two years the BBC will consider reinstating Blue Peter and Newsround to their original times. In the interim, the CBBC block of programmes on BBC One will stay put and play out between 3.05pm and end at 5.15pm.

Additional investment

The additional £25.5million over three years will secure high quality programming, like The Sarah Jane Adventures, Horrible Histories and My Almost Famous Family which may have been at risk as a result of pressures on budgets. Some of this money is being earmarked to help fund a further series of 3rd & Bird, created by Josh Selig, and Kerwhizz, for CBeebies.

This new fund will go towards other new, original shows for children, in particular drama and comedy.

Audio

Children are high users of on-demand and online services and older children are in particular actively consuming, interacting with and creating audio content for the web. It is therefore proposed to focus on the internet for streamed, downloadable audio content for children.

The CBeebies website, which currently attracts more than 1.5million users per month will re-launch in November with every page featuring a link to a new version of the CBeebies Radio Player.

CBBC website

Over the last 12 months, the decline to the website has stabilised and reach is starting to grow. We will now aim to increase weekly reach to 900,000 unique users by April next year. To do this we will:

  • Improve navigation so that children will find the CBBC website easier through any search engine
  • Refresh the website early next year so that children can navigate their way around the site easier
  • Once a child is on the CBBC website, we will also aim to keep their interest there for much longer by developing more compelling multi-platform commissions for key shows like Horrible Histories, Tracy Beaker and Serious Explorers.

Scheduling

Newsround and Blue Peter will remain on BBC One at their current times for the next two years. In the interim, development will start on potential daytime programme alternatives which could play in the 5.30pm slot.

If a successful programme that provides a strong inheritance into the 6 O'Clock News is found, the BBC will consider reinstatement of the previous scheduling pattern.

On top of this, the BBC will pursue its strategy to meet the digital needs of children by seeking to extend CBBC channel hours, subject to Trust approval and capacity; refreshing the web offer with a planned increase in budget of £1million and provide its programmes on-demand in a child-focused way through children's iPlayer.

Bennett added: "We are seeking to balance the interests of viewers in supporting a strong 6 O'Clock News and protecting children's programmes. When we weighed up all the options, which were informed by extensive research, and considered them along with the fact that children are nearly 100% digital and can access the CBBC channel and website, we decided this was the right realistic balance."

Different scheduling patterns were extensively researched with various findings – for example, children's programmes running at the later time of 4.00-6.00pm on BBC One could result in an increase in reach to CBBC but a 10% reduction in viewers to the 6 O'Clock News. A move to BBC Two was also ruled out as it would result in a 17% drop to the channel's afternoon share.

TM

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