THE BLOG

On BBC Three, the BBC Trust Hasn't Listened - We Plan to Make Sure They Do

30/06/2015 12:55 | Updated 30 June 2016

When the BBC management announced plans to close BBC Three over 18 months ago we knew it wouldn't be an easy task to convince them to change their minds. Like an episode of W1A they had been won over by a series of buzzwords in the offices of New Broadcasting House, with no understanding of the little appetite there would be for their plans.

Even today the BBC are still trying to argue that BBC Three won't close, despite plans to take the service as we know it off our television screens, with programming cuts that will reduce the service to a series of short video clips, gifs, animations, and interviews. It's no wonder almost 300,000 people on our #SaveBBC3 petition came out against their plans alongside hundreds of the entertainment industry's most creative talent.

BBC Three has been a launchpad for ground-breaking shows like In the Flesh, Torchwood, Bad Education, and Gavin Stacey. It has been the one BBC channel that has taken risks with its live debates, hard-hitting dramas and cutting-edge documentaries. I cannot imagine ITV2 or E4 being able to do the same.

I truly believed the chair of the BBC Trust when she said the viewers would be put at the heart of decision making at the BBC Trust - it's why we kept up the fight with the Change.org petition. The BBC Trust had already concluded last year the corporation was not doing enough for young people, and their last analysis of these proposals found with television still a powerful medium that audiences would end up with ITV2, E4, and Sky. Even bosses admit viewership will drop.

It is disappointing today that the BBC has not truly listened. The BBC management did not engage significantly with the future licence fee payers over this matter, probably because they knew what their response would be. However I have spent the past 18 months engaging with these people, and trying to give them a voice. You only have to read our petition comments, Twitter feed, or the feedback of the BBC's own focus groups to see there was "little appetite" for the move (their words - not mine).

How can they try to launch a new service to rival the likes of BuzzFeed, Netflix and VICE with a reduced budget rather than investment? The figures proposed today would still only be enough to match what Netflix spends on one series. And what incentive is there now for new talent to work with BBC3 online?

Had the corporation kept BBC3 on television - where the audience can easily access it - it would have a stronger fighting chance. There is so much content the BBC produces but not all of it gets an evening television slot. Imagine a TV channel that repurposes the videos from Radio 1's Live Lounge, the extensive archive of live festival coverage, and productions by independent writers and producers. This would have streamlined budgets, and still kept BBC Three innovative and relevant.

But what do I know? In W1A land they think it all makes sense. Despite the fact thousands are still without fast enough broadband speeds to stream the iPlayer, and cannot get the 3G/4G signals on their mobile. Even those with the capacity will still need to invest in data-intensive packages to stream content they once got on their TV.

Today's choices did not have to be as clear cut as yes or no. There were other options on the table. I am a big fan of keeping the BBC public, but when it comes to axing a service there should have been more thought given to the offer to buy the channel. With the BBC losing the rights to the Olympics this week it will also potentially leave a big pot of money unspent that could have been used to invest in young people.

Instead the Director General's priority has been a (now rejected) BBC1+1 and would not bring any additional viewers than the innovative service he has chosen to axe from the TV screens. He proposed doing this because he said he didn't want to "salami slice" the budget, but I can only conclude today that he will do just that. The online service - with fewer viewers - will not offer the value for money this exercise was meant to achieve.

The #SaveBBC3 campaign will keep fighting. We believe the BBC needs to inspire a generation rather than losing one. A 28-day consultation now follows, and we plan to make our voices heard as loudly as possible. The BBC Trust today hasn't listened - we plan to make sure by the end of this consultation they do.

For more information, or to sign Jono's petition to #SaveBBC3, click here