The BBC Trust has agreed BBC Three should go online-only as part of measures to save £30 million (US$47.2 million) a year, but has attached certain conditions, which must be met before a final approval is granted.
The Trust has also rejected the BBC’s mooted plan that BBC Three’s EPG slot should be used for a new BBC 1+1. It did agree, however, that the BBC iPlayer be evolved, and the hours of children’s channel CBBC be extended.
A public value assessment found “clear long-term potential in a new online service that would save £30 million a year and that it thinks will be more distinctive than the existing BBC Three channel, whose audience is currently falling,” the Trust said in a press release.
The Trust said that switching BBC Three online will have a positive effect on the wider market, although acknowledged there were also concerns, such as non-broadband home not being able to access the online service. It also said there was a concern about the impact on the BBC’s ability to develop new talent and try out new ideas.
The latter can, the Trust said, be addressed by a stronger commitment to youth-skewing content on the BBC One and BBC Two linear channels.
The Trust said it also wants to see “a commitment to a space on broadcast television [not just on BBC Three online] where risks can be taken with new talent and new ideas of the sort that BBC Three has been successful in developing”.
BBC management have been asked to report to the Trust on implementing the risk-taking and talent initiatives and on ensuring the public is fully aware of the switch from linear to online. Final approval for the switch is dependent upon the BBC satisfactorily meeting the Trust’s requirement in these regards.
Management today welcomed the provisional ruling, describing it as “the next step in delivering our vision for a new BBC Three”.
“With a frozen licence fee and the BBC’s income cut by 26 per cent we have had to make some very difficult choices, however our plans will allow us to innovate with new ideas and new forms of content for younger audiences,” said a BBC spokesperson. “We’ll now consider the areas the Trust have asked us to address and respond in due course.”
UK producers, led by Hat Trick Productions’ Jimmy Mulville and Avalon Television’s Jon Thoday, are expected to immediately crank up their opposition to the move, having previously promised to become more “aggressive”in their campaign to save the channel if Trust approval was granted.