BBC Three Has Been Cancelled: TV Channel Will Move To Online-Only

“It’s not the end of BBC Three, it’s the beginning of a new BBC Three.”

Remember this? BBC Three in happier times.
Remember this? BBC Three in happier times.

As widely predicted, it seems that rumours of its demise were not premature: the BBC is axing digital TV channel BBC Three.

BBC Director-General Tony Hall has announced that as part of an extensive cost-cutting exercise BBC Three will become an online service, with all programmes moving to the BBC’s iPlayer.

As part of the move, BBC Three’s budget will be slashed from an estimated £90 million per year to £25m, and some shows will go out on other channels.

BBC One will reap the financial benefit, gaining around £30 million for new drama plus a substantial chunk of BBC Three’s budget to pay for a new BBC One +1 service. Some money will also be diverted to children’s programming via creating an evening extension of CBBC.

Alluding to the mobile, on-demand TV viewing market, “the environment that younger audiences are living in,” Lord Hall hailed the “historic” decision.

“It’s the first time we’ve asked a channel to transform itself to meet the needs of the audiences we’ll have in the future,” he added.

In its heyday, the younger-skewing BBC Three was the Sargasso Sea for ground-breaking, money-making, worldwide hits Torchwood, Little Britain, Being Humanand Gavin & Stacey. It launched The Mighty Boosh and Chris Lilley on an unsupecting public.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a breakdown of just how much money BBC Three shows like these have made for the corporation since the channel’s inception in 2o03? All those lucrative foreign rights, sales and remakes? Not to mention all the licensed Torchwood tie-in merchandise.

BBC Three not only reinvigorated John Barrowman‘s career, it was also a springboard for comedy gold, launching stars such as Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Jack Whitehall, Richard Ayoade, Ruth Jones and James Corden. Most of whom have come out swinging on social media since the news broke. (#SaveBBC3)

BBC Three is currently airing the second series of innovative comedy Bluestone 42 as well as imports like Family Guy and Lilley’s latest, Ja’mie: Private School GirlHowever, in latter years the channel has been heavily criticised for its roster of cheaper, formulaic, reality TV offerings such as Snog, Marry, Avoid? and Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents.

With a healthy annual budget it has also attracted the ire of BBC grandees like Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys as well as viewers unhappy with the absence of arts programming.

Hoping for a Radio 6 Music- type reprieve, BBC Three veterans and fans have taken to the internet to protest the closure plans and an online petition to save the channel is up and running.

So why is it a bad thing to have BBC Three online-only? BAFTA-nominated comedy director, Ben Gosling Fuller (Pramface, Bad Education, The IT Crowd) points out that it’s all about the money. An online BBC Three will have considerably less money to spend on the legions of freelancers who work on TV shows.

Self-employed camera operators, editors, writers, directors and actors all have bills to pay. The people who find and nurture new talent have bills to pay. And if BBC Three can’t afford to hire them, they’ll find someone else who can.

What say you? Has BBC Three run its course? Or does it still have a role to play? Tell us in Comments!

Watch Tony Hall’s announcement here.


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