Trade association Audio UK has announced that the latest formal evaluation of its Audio Content Fund, with commercial radio body Radiocentre, revealed that the initiative commissioned 165 projects in the UK overall.
According to the evaluation by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and Wavehill consultants, the fund was successful in meeting all the objectives across eight eligibility criterias set by the department and the projects funded by the scheme had potential to grow further and “demonstrate real value for money”.
“The Audio Content Fund’s wide range of projects has introduced new genres onto some stations for the first time, the first children’s soap opera on radio, the first drama, documentary and comedy on some stations and overall has brought unique public service often to many millions of listeners,” said AudioUK’s director of the Audio Content Fund, Tim Wilson. “For a relatively small investment it has produced a terrific way of getting important content to the public on their stations of choice. The opportunity still remains for the government to continue to support this project and we hope it will consider doing so.”
The annual scheme received a total of £3m in grant funding from 2019-2022 during its “pilot” phase and two further grants up to £400k during the pandemic period in order to provide further support during that time period. Overall, the 165 projects worked with 91 different suppliers and were broadcast across 350 stations in the UK, with 71% outside London and 7% towards non-English indigenous languages – despite the fact that the government set a 5% limit.
In addition to the projects, social and economic research organisation Wavehill concluded in the report that the Audio Content Fund created more working opportunities including nearly 10,000 freelancer days, 40 full-time jobs and 240 part-time jobs. It also facilitated new partnerships which sometimes led to more commissions between independent production companies and the commercial radio sector.
“This official evaluation provides compelling evidence that the Audio Content Fund was successful in achieving the objectives it was set by the government,” said Radiocentre’s director of the Audio Content Fund, Matt Payton. “Contestable funding in audio has delivered great content for audiences in an effective and efficient way, on a range of different radio stations across the country. Given this track record, the lack of any clear commitment to future funding feels like a missed opportunity.”
In May 2022, AudioUK published an open letter calling for more public funding to renew the Audio Content Fund after its pilot phase ended in March 2022 – although it will continue to administer the funds until March 2023. The letter has been signed by a number of executive producers and industry professionals including Audio Production Awards chair Kellie While, British Podcast Awards co-founders Matt Hill and Matt Deegan, as well as Reduced Listening managing director Joby Waldman.