BBC confirms closure of BBC3, moves to online channel.

For the first time in the history of the BBC that it will close a television channel, the youthful BBC3.

2014-03-07_0132The BBC has confirmed its plans to close youthful channel BBC Three as a broadcast TV channel in autumn 2015, and move it to an online service.

It is the first time in the history of the BBC that it will close a television channel.

BBC3, which launched in 2003, has the biggest 16-34 market share in the UK, and broadcasts from 7pm as part of a channel share with kids channel CBBC. Titles have included Gavin & Stacey, Little Britain, Bad Education, Being Human, The Fades, Doctor Who Confidential, Torchwood, Snog Marry Avoid? and Summer Heights High.

In February 2014, BBC Director-General Tony Hall announced that cuts of £100 million ($AU185m) would have to be made at the corporation.

The new plans would mean –

  • The BBC saving over £50 million ($AU92m) a year
  • £30 million ($AU55m) of that going into drama on BBC One
  • BBC Three being reinvented as a new and innovative online service
  • The freed-up spectrum being used to extend CBBC by an hour a night and to provide a BBC One +1 service

In an email to BBC staff, BBC Director-General, Tony Hall said in part:

“Something has to give. And that means hard choices. But there is one choice I will never make – and that’s to sacrifice quality. And I believe that’s what the British public thinks too.

“I believe it’s the right thing to do: young audiences – the BBC Three audience – are the most mobile and ready to move to an online world. 25% of viewing by 16-24 year olds is to catch-up or other screens and over the next few years we expect that to reach 40%. We recognise that, for now, most of this audience still do their viewing on television, and that is why we plan to show BBC Three’s long-form content on either BBC One or BBC Two.

“I’m convinced that the BBC as a creative organisation will be able to reinvent a space for young people on the iPlayer that will be bold, innovative and distinctive. It will not just be a TV channel distributed online – it will be an opportunity to look at new forms, formats, different durations, and more individualised and interactive content. It will play to BBC Three’s strengths, offer something distinctive and new, and enhance the BBC’s reputation with young audiences. And I will challenge everyone in the BBC to spend much more time focusing on programming for young audiences. We will lead the way.”

The proposal is subject to the approval of the BBC Trust, and has already caused a massive backlash from viewers with celebrities including Greg James, Matt Lucas and Jack Whitehall backing a campaign to try to save the channel.

A petition is also being hosted on change.org.

23 Responses

  1. @ MHA – Part of the restack that is going on now, also had to take in to consideration other services that need to use spectrum.

    For instance Sky Racing Channel recently upgraded all there Satellite Decoders to Digital output and need to be fed to TV’s on a channel output. Foxtel in commercial premises like Pubs and Motels need the same, some venues have 4 plus decoders fed into digital modulators to show it in and around the venues.

    If another re-stack were to occur, those would have to protected in some way as it would be a huge job to go around and retune all those to new output channels (and on the TV’s).

    As is the Government are going to get a billion plus in licence fees selling of the spectrum already freed up, so will have plenty with the on-going licence fees a swell.

  2. @ph, another restack could be achieved instead of reserving the six current multiplex spots, cut them down to five or even four. That would release around another 30% spectrum very easily, especially in the UHF band.

  3. I’m not sure if it’s a good move for the BBC to be moving BBC3 to an online only platform. I understand their reasoning behind doing it but I’m not sure it will work to be honest. Hopefully nothing like that happens here any time soon.

  4. @Jezza if you think Bolt is ‘centre right’ then that’s, well, your opinion! Suggesting I’m a lefty isn’t correct.
    I was suggesting that it’s ‘cool’ at the minute to bash the ABC/SBS. You suggest the intent to merge ABC/SBS isn’t political, I beg to differ.
    I’m seeing the bigger picture and looking forward. It’s obviously just a different bigger picture to you. It’s a democracy after all. So chin up!

  5. The idea of having online channels or programmes only works if you have decent fast and reliable internet connections. I now live in the Southern Highlands and have the fastest and best broadband I can get and I can assure you I pay a high price for crap. Cant watch any of the catch up services as its constantly buffering. In the UK they have great broadband and its fairly cheap. They even have Freesat which has more channels. You can even subscribe to Pay TV with your broadband provider. The licence fee is now being asked to take care of the BBC world service. Something has to give.

  6. @ MHA – Combining the ABC and SBS will not free up any new spectrum for new Mobile Devices.

    The reason for the recent (and on-going) restack of channels is so as to free up the 694MHZ – 820MHZ spectrum (channels: 52 – 75). to be sold off for new LTE Towers. There is a guard band between the last block of those (E) of 9MHZ because LTE operates in the same UHF frequency as TV does. So they cannot use anything in close proximity to where the existing channels have been or are being moved to.

    The Spectrum for TV will be Block A: 6-12 VHF, Block B: 28-33, Block C: 34-39, Block D: 40-45, Block E: 46-51,. In the VHF case that cannot be sold-off and used because LTE is UHF (SBS is on 7 and ABC on 12). In the other Blocks cases it cannot be used as it is full and channels close together; LTE will interfere with other channels even if the ABC and SBS have there spectrum combined and one…

  7. @glennc…a total misunderstanding on your part re The Bolt Report. The mantra and bogeyman of the mad left. Having an opinion about the public broadcasters and suggesting to modernise, merge and change direction of them (not politically I hasten too add) is a totally different and a much bigger concept than suggesting the axing of a minor single show from a centre right political hack on a commercial channel on a Sunday morning. Your comment sounds somewhat onsessive and fearful in this context…….try and see the bigger picture and look forward

  8. What a terrible decision to move a channel to the internet. Same with those calling on moving SBS and ABC channels and shows to internet only. I get that most of the people here have access to wonderful internet and mobile phone services.

    Well those of us in the rest of the country don’t. Basically it is largely unwatchable. Same with a lot of the people in Britain I’m sure. The underprivileged especially but probably those in country areas as well. I don’t know about Britain. But the one thing that usually is more reliable is television. Although with it being digital only it is slightly less reliable plus crap in a power outage. Not the point. I guess most of you are just lucky that it is just theoretical and that you have full access to everything. Unlike a lot of people. This really is terrible.

  9. @Stan I agree too.
    One thing I’ve noticed lately is that it seems to be ‘cool’ to bash ABC/SBS and Ten.
    @Jezza/Josh The Bolt Report is a pointless waste. Should we just axe that too?

  10. BBC Choice existed as a UK domestic channel. Now it doesn’t. Not a huge loss, but it did happen.

    I suspect that while BBC3 may have more viewers than BBC4, it is more expensive to make. We can only hope that the change will lead to a younger skewed BBC2 (and BBC1).

    From an Australian perspective, we don’t gain if the BBC spends money importing programs to screen on it’s domestic channels. We do when they spend money on production. Given that this change appears to mean more money will be spent on production, the Australian public will probably benefit.

  11. Merging ABC and SBS is a horrible idea. They offer quality content, plus news from different sources.

    Although, ABC doesn’t need 4 channels and SBS doesn’t need 3 channels.

  12. The money saved by combining ABC1, ABC2, SBS, NITV and each state CTV onto a single broadcast platform as 5 X SD channels would save a huge amount of money.

    The leftoever broadcast platform spectrum could be sold off to telecommunications companies for more mobile devices to help balance the budget. Some left-over spectrum could also be reserved for future MPEG4 H.264 HD simulcasts of the ABC, Seven, Nine, TEN and SBS main channels.

    And yes, there is stack of middle management to cut, especially at the ABC that will not be missed or affect what is on-air.

  13. @ Stan – I haven’t “fallen” for anything. I am of the ideology that if you have debt you pay it off as soon as possible with as little expenditure in unnecessary areas as possible. As such, from a business position it seems unrealistic to have more than one public broadcaster. And as jezza has said there isn’t quality content on all of ABC and SBS’ channels all of the time – but rather a little on each at various times. By having one public broadcaster that has more than 1/2 of the total government investment currently you would see quality programming all of the time on all channels.

  14. Stan are you a paid up indoctrinated leftie?

    There is a lot of pointless waste on SBS, y’know the lote news bulletins….just pointless, put them online. SBS2 doesn’t do a huge amount. Better to cut out all the mgt and execs and invest in the ABC, we need just one strong public (ie non private) broadcaster

  15. Josh777, I see you’ve fallen for the Abbott/Hockey scare campaign that Australia is in some kind of debt crisis. Even if we were to accept that argument, everything you say would be all well n’ good if their budget cuts weren’t so ideological.

    That side of politics always wants to cut public broadcasting, but god forbid they run the ruler over their true loves at the military (boys & their toys). In fact Abbott wants to *increase* military spending to become 2% of GDP!

    It’s a “debt crisis” when they want to get rid of things & people they don’t like.

  16. @ Stan – currently they don’t, but if government debt doesn’t reduce then a likely tax increase will occur, which will effect all of us. Maybe the new tax will only apply to business, but even then it would have a knock-on effect on Australian businesses, employment, incomes, local economies, etc. That’s just a hypothetical situation but whenever debt becomes too much a new or increased tax usually comes in somewhere. But nevertheless, if the government merged the two companies they would reduce the amount of money put into the two companies and thus reduce their debt. Or if you prefer for the companies to remain separate entities then simply privatise them both to the highest bidders.

  17. I thought this development from BBC would bring out the predictable anti-ABC/SBS whingers. My only question to those people below: how do these networks spreading their excellent content across a few broadcast channels effect your life?

  18. I’ve never been to England so can’t comment on the state of BBC’s channels or their content, but it seems like a reasonable idea to cut the channel that will be more able to have success on the Internet than a channel that won’t (like cutting FOX8 rather than FOX Classics – one set of viewers is more likely to use catch up/Internet services than the other). In regards to comments below on ABC and SBS I agree that a merger wouldn’t be the worst idea. Move SBS’ foreign news services to ABC News 24, SBS/2 and ABC/2 adult content into say two channels (1 aimed more at the 16-39/18-49 demo and the other to the 18-49/25-54 demo) and leave ABC3 and NITV as is – effectively cutting 2 channels and an entire network.

  19. A shocking decision which hopefully won’t get signed off – and an even bigger kick in the teeth to divert half the money they supposedly need to save to BBC1 drama – which is pretty much middle road aimed at the middle aged in middle England. BBC3 is the only part of the BBC on TV at least that caters for young adults, and scrapping it jeopardises the whole future of the BBC.

    As Tomotyd says BBC4 should go if one really has to go – there has been plenty of discussion about how it’s basically treading the same ground as BBC2 and in the process weakening BBC2, which needs the budget increase much more than BBC1 considering now they only operate a primetime schedule from 8pm-10.30pm – with the 6-8pm hours now officially classed as daytime.

    (Ironically in the days before BBC3 6-8pm on BBC2 was squarely aimed at the 16-34 audience – nowadays it’s the most annoying quiz on TV…

  20. @MHA I fully agree with you. So much of SBS is wasted broadcasting lote news services to miniscule audiences, just a pointless waste of the spectrum. All these could easily be moved and made available online. By merging SBS and ABC would allow huge cuts to management and executive salaries which could then be reinvested in content. The sooner the better

  21. At last, some sense, all these multi-channels with the same time shifted and multiple repeated content does not mean quantity equals or should take precedence over quality. The money is better spent on quality for one or two networks, and not filling schedules for three, four or five plus networks for the sake of it.

    If applied here, the ABC realy only has enough content for two networks and SBS really only has enough content for one network. Hopefully this is being taken into account by the current Turnbull operational efficiency review into ABC/SBS?

  22. Worst decision they could make, no one wants to substitute a broadcast channel to an internet channel. If they were going to scrap a channel, it should have been BBC4, which runs for about the same hours a day as 3, but has less viewers.

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