The BBC has today confirmed that it plans to cease broadcasting its youth-oriented BBC Three channel in autumn 2015. All future content will be moved from the channel to a purely digital format, accessible through the iPlayer streaming service.
The move is part of a drive by the BBC to find a saving of £100m in its budget. BBC Three’s service budget for 2013/14 stood at £85m. By moving the channel online, the BBC will save over £50 million a year, £30 million of which will go towards drama on BBC One. Furthermore, CBBC’s channel time is to be extended by an hour every evening, with a BBC1 +1 service also provided.
By moving BBC Three online, the BBC will save over £50 million a year, £30 million of which will go towards drama on BBC One.
Celebrities who had notable successes on the channel, such as Matt Lucas whose hit sketch show Little Britain debuted on Three, were vocal in their opposition to axing the channel on social media before the announcement. “This would be really bad for new comedy,” he posted. “Like, REALLY bad.” Other popular shows to debut on BBC Three include The Mighty Boosh, Gavin & Stacey and Pramface.
The move follows a speech in October 2013 in which the BBC director general, Tony Hall, declared that he would not make his budget savings by closing channels.
The move to a digital-only format no doubt makes some sense given the channel’s youth demographic, but it remains to be seen how the BBC Three brand will endure without a broadcast schedule to build around, or what the impact of this decision will be on the number of new commissions made under the BBC Three banner.
It remains to be seen how the BBC Three brand will endure without a broadcast schedule, or what the impact will be on the new commissions made under the BBC Three banner.
Despite the apparent finality of the announcement, the channel may yet gain a reprieve. Hall must first get his decision endorsed by the BBC Trust, which represents the license fee payers who fund the corporation and has the power to veto such changes. A similar decision to axe the BBC Radio 6 music station was reversed by the Trust in 2010 following audience protests.