tax breaks not answer for kids TV
By Kate Bulkley
For Broadcast July 19, 2007
Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards is not convinced that measures like subsidies, tax breaks or quotas are the key to revitalising the kids TV sector.
Ofcom has already acknowledged that funding for first-run, UK originated children's programming has fallen by a third in real terms over the last decade, underlying the difficulties facing kids TV.
However, speaking to the Broadcasting Press Guild on July 18, Richards said "short term measures" like tax breaks were "dangerous" because they potentially skew the market. He also said that any decision on how to fund kid's production outside of the BBC's licence fee would have to involve government.
"This is not just an Ofcom decision," said Richards. "It's about what we want as a society, because as soon as you get into who's paying for something, then you're into government." Ofcom has pulled forward by nearly a year the PSB Review which will include a look at the question of who should be providing locally-made kid's TV besides the BBC.
"We as a society may decide that the BBC is doing a great job, but my instinct is to be nervous about that. My instinct is that the BBC is as its best when it's got somebody else saying 'we can do this really well too'. Competition stimulates creativity, innovation and it adds a different perspective."
Richards acknowledged the kid's programming issue was "a very serious question" but he also said that overall production has not really declined thanks to increased children's output from the BBC, particularly Cbeebies and CBBC plus online kid's content.
"It is tough out there but one shouldn't go overboard on this," said Richards. "Actually the volume of output is reasonably level."