After months of near silence, the BBC today revealed details of their controversial plan to shutter BBC Three as a linear broadcast service and move the channel online.
The plans, which are still subject to approval from the BBC Trust, call for BBC Three Online to commission not along genre lines such as drama, comedy and factual entertainment but instead across two key editorial pillars: “Make Me Think” and “Make Me Laugh”.
Make Me Think will encompass Documentaries, News and Drama – with BBC Director of Television Danny Cohen having stated that there is enough money in the budget for one BBC Three drama a year under these plans. Make Me Laugh will have a decided focus on comedy and entertainment.
BBC Three Online is expected to have a budget of £25 million, delivering savings of some £50 million for the corporation – £30 million of which will go into BBC One’s drama budget, with the remaining going towards online services such as the new BBC Three and the iPlayer. As a result of these plans, BBC Three expects to commission more short form programming in the future – with roughly 20% of the new budget going towards such content.
As expected, numerous programmes will be lost in BBC Three’s move online, with the likes of Russell Howard’s Good News and Jack Whitehall’s Backchat having already been moved to BBC Two. Features and factual entertainment formats, such as Don’t Tell The Bride, are not expected to survive should the plans get the go-ahead from the Trust.
That being said, Danny Cohen was keen to stress to reporters that such decisions as to what will survive on BBC Three Online were being made on a case-by-case basis. He also reiterated previous statements that new long-form programming commissioned for the online service would eventually get a slot on BBC One or BBC Two.
“As a former BBC Three Controller this genuinely wasn’t an easy decision but if ever there’s proof that necessity is the mother of invention, I believe it’s today’s proposal”, Cohen said. “I didn’t want to makes savings by simply salami-slicing again across the board in BBC Television – for me that wasn’t an option”.
“I’m truly very excited about the plans we are developing, both in terms of what they will mean for the future of BBC Three and what we can learn to drive the whole of the BBC forward in a time of relentless digital and technological change. I don’t want us to sit back as a legacy company and watch as generational change bites away at our impact – I want us to be at the forefront of that change”, he added.