The BBC has pledged the biggest investment in homegrown children’s content in a generation to keep up with the shift to online viewing.
The move arrives as part of the broadcaster’s ongoing fight against the influence of shows backed by US rivals such as Netflix and Amazon.
The BBC, which in March was asked by Ofcom to produce more UK-commissioned programming for children, is to announce a $34m budget increase over the next three years.
The broadcaster’s annual children’s budget will rise from £110m to £124.4m by 2019-20, with a commitment to spend about a quarter of that online. The aim is to keep pace with the shift in viewing by younger audiences to digital services.
Spending on British-made children’s programming by UK broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 had plummeted in the past 15 years.
“Investment in British content, particularly for the young, is vital – unless we want more of our culture shaped and defined by the rise of west coast American companies,” a BBC source told the Guardian.
“[BBC director general] Tony Hall has set a clear challenge: to reinvent the BBC for a new generation. The way children and young people are watching and consuming programmes and other content is changing fast, and the BBC needs to respond. We are exploring how new technologies can enhance how children and adults can access services and discover new content.”
Multimedia content would include video, live online programme extensions as well as clips, pictures, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, quizzes, guides games and apps.
Between 1998 and 2015, ITV’s original children’s programming fell from 424 hours a year to just 42; Channel 5’s fell from 353 hours to 30. Channel 4’s production of children’s television has fallen from 49 hours to zero.
The BBC is responsible for 97 per cent of original UK-produced children’s programming.