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BBC Three to survive – sort of

Logos of BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four, with a gap between Two and Four. Text: TV makes no sense without us.

Apologies for anyone who want a theatre blog to stick to theatre, but I’m going to carry on digressing to non-theatre arts a little longer for an update over the fate of BBC Three. As you all should know by now, there’s been a controversial proposal, backed by BBC management, to drop BBC Three from broadcast and just keep it as an online brand. There’s been a campaign to stop this, which I’ve broadly supported. You can read my reasons there, but the short version is that BBC Three, along with BBC Four, are great assets to the BBC because they can take risks. They might bomb half the time, but when they work out – and they often do – they can go on to great things on BBC One and BBC Two. Anyway, today there is news of the final proposal that BBC management is submitting to the BBC Trust. (Unfortunately, I can’t find the actual proposal, only the BBC news story about it, so I can’t check the fine print. This is the best I can do.)

It’s not an outright victory for #savebbc3 just yet. The bad news is that it’s still planned to pull it from channel 7 in Freeview. But the proposal is not nearly as bad as I originally feared it would be. BBC executives will probably swiftly deny there was ever any plan to completely close the channel – after all, their original proposal had a title promising an exciting new future as an online brand. But TV executives are notorious for bullshitting and they spin this sort of positive light on anything. A programme that is haemorrhaging viewers and being shunted away to off-peak spot where it can die on its arse would probably be spun as “an exciting opportunity to connect with a new audience” or something. Cut the crap, what’s in the details? Well, I’ve had a look, and it’s not too bad. Here’s the important points I picked up, as I understand them:

  1. BBC Three will remain as a live channel and not just a “brand”. The original proposal implied that BBC Three would only really exist as a label for programmes put straight on iPlayer. Instead, it will continue to behave as a broadcast channel, such that if you’re watching live online (this way) it will look exactly the same. In fact, its broadcast time is switching from 9 hours or so after 7 p.m. to a full 24-hour service. Make no mistake – this is vital concession. Had BBC Three been reduced to a label on catchup TV, it would almost certainly have been followed by a whittling down of the remaining budget, and eventually removing the BBC Three label from the remaining iPlayer programme. It will still have a broadcast schedule to fill, and schedules need programmes. Continue reading
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Scrapping BBC Three is a mistake

Logos of BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four, with a gap between Two and Four. Text: TV makes no sense without us.

COMMENT: The move to divert funding to BBC One shows how much BBC Three’s risk-taking is undervalued. I’d rather do the salami slicing Tony Hall warns us against.

Unless you’ve been on holiday in Bratislakislavistan for the last two weeks, it won’t have escaped your attention that there’s a proposal to close BBC as a broadcast channel. And, just like there was for proposals to close 6 Music and Asian Network, there is be a big outcry over this, with over 200,000 signatures to an online petition already. Normally I don’t like leaping on bandwagons – I prefer to save my opinion pieces on this blog for more contentious arguments. Besides, this is television, not theatre, and as I don’t watch that much television I ought to not have an opinion. But even though I watch very little of BBC Three (or any other channel), I have been supportive of the idea, because this channel is a kind of Edinburgh Fringe of television.

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