BBC 3 to be scrapped

THE BBC has announced that BBC Three is to become an exclusively online channel, accessible only via iPlayer. Reports suggest that the change is imminent, and it has prompted a wide scale reaction from celebrities and viewers alike, calling for the channel to continue in its current form.

bbc3logo_5035BBC Three officially launched in 2003, after being rebranded from BBC Choice, which launched in 1998 as the first exclusively digital channel. Thechannel has been praised for attempts “to give young talent a platform” and has been described as “a decent, funny, original and entertaining channel which doesn’t require a subscription”.

BBC Three has been the birthplace of numerous ratings successes, including Little Britain, Torchwood, Being Human and Gavin and Stacey.

Various celebrities have joined the calls to save the channel.

Jack Whitehall, who writes and stars in BBC show Bad Education, wrote: “I really hope reports that the BBC may kill BBC3 are just rumours. [Their] support of new comedy in particular is vital! #saveBBC3.”

Matt Lucas wrote: “Hearing horrible rumours about the possible closure of BBC3. This would be really bad for new comedy. Like, REALLY bad. #SaveBBC3.”

The channel has been attacked by some who felt that its documentary programming had a downmarket nature, and that its annual budget – which was £85m for 2013/14 – could be better and more wisely spent. BBC Three has an average weekly audience of 13 million viewers, and 29% of all 16-34 year olds watch it weekly.

The BBC’s decision follows a speech given by Director General Tony Hall last week, in which he said “tough choices” would have to be made if the corporation was to meet its savings target. “We are in the final stages of a budget process to find an extra £100m of savings,” he said at the Oxford Media Convention, “I will announce the outcome of those decisions in the next month.”

It is something of a turnaround for Lord Hall, who said in October: “I wouldn’t consider closing a channel. The public feel very strongly about all the services the BBC runs,” he told the World At One. “We have to find other ways [of saving money]”.

Before moving BBC Three online, however, the Director General must get approval from the BBC Trust, the corporation’s governing body, which represents the interests of licence fee payers. The futures of both BBC Three and BBC Four have been much discussed as the corporation continues to implement its savings plans.

The BBC has previously reversed decisions to close its 6 Music and Asian Network radio services after concerted campaigning by supporters. However, it has closed several foreign language sections of the BBC World Service, with the loss of more than 650 jobs since 2011.