Future of the Audio Content Fund
The Audio Content Fund (ACF) is a scheme to provide funding for the creation of original radio production in the UK. The fund was originally part of a pilot Contestable Fund, financed by the UK Government, to support the provision and plurality of public service content.
It has been used to produce distinctive, public service radio content for broadcast on commercial and community radio, supporting programming that is traditionally more difficult to support on a commercial basis (such as documentaries, comedy, drama, events).
Following the conclusion of the pilot scheme period in March 2022, the ACF does not currently have any further funding in place to support programming (although it will continue to run until March 2023 in order to administer the remaining funded content).
In the meantime we have organised an Open Letter to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to show that the Fund is well-supported by producers, radio stations, organisations, educators and audiences across the UK.
UPDATE: The letter has been sent to DCMS and the evaluation is now taking place. Thanks to everyone for the support and we will continue to work towards the continuation of fund.
The most recent names added to the list are available below.
Chloe Straw, Managing Director, AudioUK
Ian Moss, Chief Executive, Radiocentre
Colin Browne, Chair, Voice of the Listener and Viewer
Dom Chambers, Chair, Community Media Association
Phil Maguire OBE, Chief Executive, Prison Radio Association
Kellie While, Chair, Audio Production Awards
Phil Riley, Chair, Audio and Radio Industry Awards (ARIAs)
Matt Hill, co-founder, British Podcast Awards
Joby Waldman, on behalf of Multitrack Audio Fellowship and Reduced Listening
Dyfrig Davies, Chair, Teledwyr Annibynnol Cymru / Welsh Independent Producers
Tim Crook, Emeritus Professor, Media, Communications and Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London
Richard Berry, Senior Lecturer in Radio, University of Sunderland
Dr Caroline Mitchell, Associate Professor Radio and Participation, University of Sunderland
Professor Sean Street, Emeritus Professor of Radio, Bournemouth University
Deborah David Wilson, Head of Dept, Journalism and Media, Nottingham Trent University
Dr Lawrie Hallett, Senior Lecturer in Radio, University of Bedfordshire
Helen Boaden, Chair, Funding Panel, Audio Content Fund
Adam Uytman, Member, Funding Panel, Audio Content Fund
Mukti Jain Campion, Member, Funding Panel, Audio Content Fund
Kate Cocker, Member, Funding Panel, Audio Content Fund
David Lloyd, Member, Funding Panel, Audio Content Fund
Rob Littlejohn, Member, Funding Panel, Audio Content Fund
Matt Deegan, Station Manager, Fun Kids
Iain Meadows, Station Manager, Two Lochs Radio
Liam McCann, Programme Controller, Central FM
Suzy Lee, Station Manager, Radio Skye
Martin Mumford, Managing Director, Nation Broadcasting
Nick Pitts, Content Director, Jazz FM
Paul Sylvester, Content Director, Absolute Radio Network
Andy Ashton, Network Content Director, Greatest Hits Radio
Paul Gerrard, Programme Director, Hits Radio
Gary Stein, Group Programme Director, Hits Radio Network
Rebecca Frank, Content Director, Kiss Network
Tony Moorey, Group Content Director, Magic, Absolute Radio, Scala Radio
Ric Blaxill, Content Director, Planet Rock, Kerrang Radio
Ben Cooper, Chief Content and Music Officer, Bauer Media
Chris Hurst, CEO, Dee Radio Group
Neil Sloan, Group Content Director, Communicorp UK
Louis Timpany, CEO, Fix Radio
Phil Critchlow OBE, CEO and Founding Director, TBI Media
Stuart Morgan, Managing Director, Audio Always, Manchester
Bernard P Achampong, Director, Unedited
Nick Low, Managing Director, Demus Productions, Glasgow
Andy Cartwright, Managing Director, Soundscape Productions, Yorkshire
Nina Robinson, Soundtruism, Birmingham
Gus Beattie, Managing Director, Gusman Productions, Scotland
Andrew Mark Sewell, Creative Director, B7 Productions Limited
Simon Barnard, MD, Bafflegab Productions
Peter Curran, The Foghorn Company, making programmes in Northern Ireland
Peter Shevlin, Director, C60 Media
Callum Marks, Production Director, Listening Dog Media, Manchester
Alex Anderson, Director, Tandem Productions
Alex Jungius, Director, Distorted, Leeds
Richard Berry, Director and Kirsten Lass, Associate Director, Loftus Media
Gregory Watson, Managing Director, Folder Media
Ray Paul, Creative Director, The Playmaker Group
Eloise Whitmore, Managing Director, Naked Productions, Manchester
Rachel Barton, CEO, We Are Grape Ltd
Karen Pearson, CEO / Founder, Folded Wing, Essex
Jon Holmes, Managing Director, Unusual
Melanie Harris, Managing Director, Sparklab Productions, Manchester
Trevor Dann, Creative Director, Trevor Dann’s Company, Herts
Chris Skinner, Vice President, Somethin’ Else
Mike Hally, Partner and Senior Producer, Square Dog Radio, Scotland
Tim Hammond, Managing Director, Listen
David Prest, Managing Director, Whistledown
Leona Fensome, Creative Director & Oral Historian, Inkslingers Media
David Tyler, Producer, Pozzitive TV Ltd
Ashley Byrne, Creative Director, Made In Manchester
Caroline Raphael, Director, Dora Productions
Katharine Kerr, Director, Podcast Pioneers
Open Letter to The Rt Hon Nadine Dorries MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Dear Secretary of State
Since April 2019, at the cost of just £1m a year, the Audio Content Fund has been commissioning a wide range of unique public service radio content for a wide range of commercial and community stations.
This has resulted in many positive benefits – commercial and community radio have been able to overcome the challenges of creating and airing new landmark content in a highly competitive environment; independent production companies around the UK have forged new creative partnerships with those stations and employed further audio professionals; and most importantly of all, audiences have benefited from some truly innovative, thoughtful and uplifting programmes broadcast on their stations of choice.
So far the ACF has commissioned 145 projects from 83 different suppliers, broadcast on 340 commercial and community stations, amounting to 620 hours of unique programming that is traditionally more difficult to support on a commercial basis.
The three mandatory criteria of quality, additionality and audience reach, which each new project must meet, along with the other five criteria of diversity, nations and regions, innovation, new voices and additionality, have ensured that the content is genuinely unique and not replicated on the BBC or elsewhere. It has funded everything from the first children’s soap opera on the radio; a tour of Manchester’s musical heritage; the first drama on Jazz FM; unique content in Welsh, Gaelic, Irish and Ulster Scots; and introduced a new range of diverse presenter talent on a major national network.
We are aware that DCMS will shortly be working with the Audio Content Fund to evaluate the scheme. We are in no doubt that there is a good deal of evidence available that will demonstrate positive impact of the fund.
Radio’s unique relationship with the listener has also enabled the Government to reach out to diverse audiences which the BBC does not reach to the same extent. It has done so twice during the lifetime of the three-year pilot, once in 2020 with the special £400k Coronavirus round designed to lift the national mood through projects such as Absolute Radio 40s, celebrating VE Day’s 75th anniversary, and again at the beginning of 2021 with the £300k Loneliness Round, designed to tackle mental health issues caused by the lockdown periods.
We note that your department’s forthcoming Creative Industries Sector Vision is focussed on aspects such as growth, filling workforce gaps and looking at the role creativity has in wider society. Along with other measures, continuing to fund the ACF will help to ensure audio production is part of the overall success story of the UK’s creative industries going forward. To demonstrate the workforce impact, last year the ACF reported that the scheme, in just over two years of the three-year pilot, created 4,301 freelancer days, 141 part-time jobs and 28 full-time jobs.
The Fund has from the start taken a geographically agnostic approach and as a result has contributed to creating an enhanced share of voice from people across the UK and supporting the Levelling Up agenda. So far 62% of ACF grant funding has been awarded to companies outside the M25 and 65% of the projects awarded funding are based outside the M25.
The ACF’s creation has led to a wealth of important and exciting content, brought businesses together and created new jobs around the UK. Audiences have been able to enjoy its unique programmes and we call upon the DCMS to protect its future by allocating just £1m a year for its permanent continuation. This would be a good way to follow up on the work your department has already recently done to boost other creative sectors, for example the allocation of £21m to the UK Global Screen Fund and £8m to the UK Games Fund.
We do hope that your department will bear this in mind as it conducts its evaluation in a timely manner so that the continuation of the Fund can be secured while it remains in operation.
Sign the letter
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Total signatures so far: 317