Phil Redmond: ‘Cultural precept’ on mobile phones could fund children’s TV

Public service TV for children should be funded through a “cultural precept” on mobile phones, Sir Phil Redmond has suggested.

The creator of hit shows Grange Hill, Brookside and Hollyoaks said the last year has proved the need for public funding “where and when necessary”.

Sir Phil compared children’s programming to clean water, policing, and fire and rescue services, saying: “Is not a safe, well-curated and trusted space for children’s media content equally important?”

Phil Redmond
Sir Phil Redmond has suggested mobile phones could be a source of funding for public service TV content for children (Christopher Furlong/PA)

He said the licence fee “feels and is anachronistic” but suggested an alternative method of funding in a report compiled by the the Children’s Media Foundation (CMF).

“Why not then consider adding something to every phone and broadband contract?” he wrote.

“Just like the additional costs added to our community charges to fund non-council public services, like the police or fire and rescue, why not add a ‘cultural precept’ to every phone bill?”

The CMF report will be presented to Ofcom to advance the “unique position of the children’s audience” in the debate on the future of public service media, the organisation said.

The report aims to “highlight the need for Government to protect the production of UK-originated, culturally-relevant content for kids”.

Sir Phil said there are around 79 million mobile phone contracts in the country.

He wrote: “A cultural precept of £60 a year on each would provide the same level of funding as the current BBC licence fee, without all the issues around criminality, over-75s, hotels and hospital pricing, or costs of collection.

“So, why not a quid or two to fund children’s content?”

And amid the uncertainty surrounding the future of Channel 4, Sir Phil floated the idea of it merging into a new public service content provider with “its £1 billion revenue, or a substantial part of it, going towards children’s media content”.

The 72-year-old TV producer said “the age of concern about fake news, cyberbullying, grooming, scamming and the digital divide” raises the question over funding of children’s content.

It is “more a cultural question”, he wrote, “of whether we, as a society, want and are prepared to fund a curated, trusted safe space for our children’s consumption”.

Sir Phil said the Young Audiences Content Fund – set up by the Government to support the creation of “distinctive content” for audiences up to the age of 18 – is a “welcome intervention” but suggested making it a permanent fixture rather than a three-year pilot.

Patricia Hidalgo, director of BBC Children’s and Education, who has contributed to the report, said: “We all believe that public service media matters.

“Our audience needs to believe it too. We have to make content which is both nourishing and that they want to consume.

“It’s imperative that children can see British values, culture, locations and diverse representation, in all genres… It’s never been more vital now that kids can access on-demand such vast streams of pure entertainment from global competitors.”

CMF chairwoman Anna Home said: “It’s important we don’t forget what it is we require from the new PSM framework. And that is diverse storytelling for our children, across the full range of genres, which reflects their lives and their culture and is made available on a range of platforms, so that all children can access that content.”