The government is winding down its Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF), which hasp loughed £44m into 55 PSB kids shows over the past three years.
The pilot fund, administered by the BFI on behalf of the DCMS, will close for applications at 6pm on 25 February.
Designed to boost UK production of commercial PSB content for children and reverse the 40% decline of the sector from 2006 to 2017, the fund has invested in 144 developments since its inception.
However, it has had its wings clipped along the way, with a projected £57m in funding over the three years cut to £44m, with £13m diverted to broadband rollout.
YACF head Jackie Edwards had been lobbying for an extension, a move supported by the Children's Media Foundation (CMF) and producers’ alliance Pact, but the BFI has confirmed its closure.
CMF chair Anna Home said the government was doing children - and the kids TV market - a disservice by not extending the scheme.
“Now we face a definite decrease in the number and range of programmes being made for young people in the UK - we could very quickly be back where we started three years ago - with the BBC as the only body commissioning content for children - and in fact it’s worse as the BBC is facing government-imposed budget cuts of its own."
The move comes at a challenging time for the PSB sector, with the BBC facing tough decisions over where to make £285m in cuts following the licence fee freeze and the threat of privatisation hanging over Channel 4.
Meanwhile, former BBC head of children's Cheryl Taylor has joined Banijay UK as creative director of Zodiak Kids and Family Studio UK.
Commissioned shows supported by the YACF include E4’s Teen First Dates, CITV’s Makeaway Takeaway, and The World According to Grandpa for Channel 5’s Milkshake! Strand, with around one in five of its projects scoring recommissions.
Its remit includes work produced in indigenous British languages, including Sol, a film about grief produced in Irish for TG4, Scottish Gaelic for BBC Alba and Welsh for S4C (main picture).
The fund also backed the See Yourself on Screen Challenge, devised in lockdown for young people to submit stories that expressed their own voices, interests and experiences.
The project led to a report commissioned by the YACF that found that only a quarter of four to 18 year-olds felt they saw themselves represented on screen.
In a statement, the BFI expressed its pride in having “given young people all over the UK the opportunity to watch and engage with original UK programming on free-to-access, regulated platforms, reflecting their lives, hopes and fears, and educating, entertaining and inspiring them.
“We hope the Fund’s legacy will be to encourage UK broadcasters to continue to focus on programmes that nurture and nourish and reflect the lives of young people in the UK.”
At this point, 24 YACF projects remain in production and are set to air over the next two years.