Robert Hampton

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5th March 2014

Tragic number
Posted by at 8.08pm | 1 response | Television

Bad news for the BBC:

The closure of BBC3 is to be proposed by the BBC director general, the Guardian understands, bringing the curtain down on the youth-oriented TV channel after 11 years.

The report goes on to say that the channel’s content will move online. It’s not clear how this will save any significant amount of money, as someone still has to pay to make the programmes – unless (as I suspect) that the programme-making budget is going to disappear too.

I’ve followed the channel’s fortunes since the days when it was still BBC Choice. It’s been an easy target for the Daily Mail, rent-a-quote MPs and the seemingly never-ending queue of BBC stars who turn around and slag off the corporation as soon as it fails to commission their new sitcom. “I don’t watch it, why should I pay for it?” is the depressing mantra.

Critics can point to programmes like Snog, Marry, Avoid and F*** Off, I’m Fat, and it’s fair to say the channel has provided Harry Hill with a lot of material for TV Burp over the years. But there’s also been genuinely interesting stuff like Our War and Junior Doctors, as well as drama series such as Being Human and comedy shows like Little Britain (which was genuinely funny in its first series). Also, the channel picked up Family Guy – which had failed on Sky One, Channel 4 and BBC2 – and made it into a hit.

I don’t watch much BBC Three (probably because I’m ageing out of its target market) but I think it needs to exist. The channel has been a great proving ground for new comedy and drama, launching a great many careers over the past decade. Will the BBC’s other channels be able to carry out that function in the future? Radio 4 tries, but is always hamstrung by its resolutely middle-class audience. Is iPlayer a good enough place to test new performers and writers?

BBC Three reaches a big audience of people in their teens and twenties, and its not clear how that crowd will be served from now on. Is the BBC really going to abandon that market to Channel 4 and Sky? Those people are tomorrow’s licence fee payers!

Finally, and most importantly – where will the Eurovision semis be shown?


One Response
  1. Comment by Chris Bowden-Smith
    5th March 2014 at 11:07 pm

    Now the transmitter network has been privatised the main saving would be many millions in annual transmission charges to the transmitter companies. A separate budget to programmes.