The fate of BBC Three has been sealed. More than a year after the BBC announced plans to shutter BBC Three as a linear TV channel and move it online, the corporation’s regulator has “provisionally approved” the proposals, whilst also imposing a number of conditions.
Said conditions call for a “carefully managed transition” from a TV channel to an online brand (the Trust said they were “considering” if that should see some overlap in running both services in order to raise awareness of the changes); firm commitments to air BBC Three Online content in slots on BBC One and/or BBC Two; and a commitment that BBC One & BBC Two will have “space” for risk taking, where emerging talent and new ideas can be cultivated.
“We know young audiences are already moving towards the online future, but we do recognise that in the short term some of them will feel the immediate impact of the BBC Three proposals”, said BBC Trust Chairman Rona Fairhead. “We are therefore asking the BBC for commitments to ensure it uses the full range of its television services to better serve young people and others who make up BBC Three’s audience.”
The BBC Executive (DG Tony Hall and his senior team) will need to report back to the Trust with detailed plans around these three conditions, such as timetables and costing, before final approval is given and the BBC can proceed with its hugely controversial plans. In addition to reaching a decision on BBC Three, the trust vetoed plans to launch a time-shift service for BBC One, whilst they also grenlit plans to add third-party content to the iPlayer and extend the operating hours of kids channel CBBC.
“We welcome the Trust’s provisional conclusion, which is the next step in delivering our vision for a new BBC Three”, the BBC Executive said in a statement. “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. We’ll now consider the areas the Trust have asked us to address and respond in due course.
While the Trust does seem to have recognised the concerns – both from the public and within the industry – about the proposed online move, the three conditions outlined today are not likely to alleviate said concerns. Especially as the closure of BBC Three is likely to hit both 16-34 and the wide range of indies who did business with BBC Three the hardest, at least in the short term.