The BBC Trust has formally approved proposals to move BBC Three online.
The BBC first announced plans to axe the broadcast channel in early 2014. At the time the BBC claimed the move would result in an annual saving of £50m, of which £30m would be reinvested into drama on flagship channel BBC One.
The Corporation will not now introduce a BBC One +1 service as originally expected.
BBC Three was launched in early 2003 and its audience share has steadily grown to 1.2%. The channel, which provides innovative content to younger viewers, is watched by a quarter of viewers between the ages of 16 to 24. More than 300,000 BBC Three supporters signed a petition against its banishment into cyberspace, but the Trust has decided to press ahead regardless.
The Trust has reviewed the BBC's initial proposals and introduced conditions to mitigate the loss of the broadcast channel. In particular, it has included:
- A condition requiring BBC Three programmes to be broadcast on BBC One/Two, has been strengthened so that all BBC Three long-form programmes must be broadcast in slots on BBC One and Two, on an ongoing basis, effective immediately on closure of the BBC Three TV channel.
- A condition that BBC Three long-form programmes must be broadcast on both BBC One and Two at a variety of times across the schedule and throughout the UK.
- A condition requiring BBC One and Two to offer programmes specifically aimed at younger audiences, including the BBC Three programmes, now requires the channels to offer distinctive programmes designed for younger audiences, including the long-form BBC Three programmes.
The Trust also requires BBC One and Two to fill the void left by BBC Three by creative risk-taking and experimenting with new talent and ideas.
There will be a phased transition between the broadcast and online versions of BBC Three in early 2016. The new BBC Three online service should be fully operational by the end of February 2016.
Of course now that Family Guy is on BBC Two, is there really a need for BBC Three at all?
Probably not, in our opinion!
Edit: We are grateful to a reader for highlighting the fact that ITV recently won the rights to broadcast all new Family Guy episodes.