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.