Even the BBC were unable to prevent the news spreading, after much speculation, it was their own news service that published the leaked announcement that after 11 years of broadcasting BBC Three is to become online only as part of a wave of spending cuts.
The channel, much admired for its comedy output which has included such hits as Gavin and Stacey and Fresh Meat, and predominantly targeted at the 16-24 age bracket costs the Beeb about £85m a year, small in comparison to the main BBC 1 and 2 with a combined budget of over £1,500m but a chunk larger than its older sister station BBC 4 which sets the corporation back £49m.
BBC director Tony Hall is expected to argue that the youth orientated channel is the least likely to suffer from a move to online-only as the majority of it audience are regular users of the iPlayer service – the channel started releasing its scripted comedy programs online, before they were broadcast, earlier this year. However, a barrage of the channels best known stars, including Jack Whitehall, Matt Lucas and Russell Kane all of whom rose to fame on the back of BBC 3 shows have defended the channel saying comedy will suffer if the decision goes ahead.
Even before the rumours were confirmed the hashtag #SaveBBC3 was trending on twitter, although not everyone disagreed with the decision, one twitter user said “All #SomeGirls S2 eps premiered online. New comedy needs a home but that home should be as pioneering as the material.”, whilst some criticized the recent trend of young peoples services being disproportionately effected. “Informative & entertaining for young ppl. Also some constructive, non-sensationalist #mentalhealth shows in recent months. #shame“. The move to end children’s television on BBC 1 and 2, limiting it to the child specific channels of CBBC and Cbeebies was heavily downplayed despite widespread protests and went ahead two years ago.
Twitter campaigns and public support managed to save BBC Radio 6 Music, the sister station of Radio 2, last year – although that cut was for a much smaller ammount of the corporations budget and resulted in more extensive cuts to the BBC World Service radio station than had already been planned. Critics of the BBC 3 cut have targeted BBC 4, oftern seen as offering mainly a repitition of the services of BBC2, twitter user @pokemon_paul said “If there’s any channel that deserves the axe its bbc 4. Never met anyone in my life who has ever watched it #SaveBBC3“.
The channel has recieved a variety of accolades, its programs have earnt 7 BAFTAs and 5 British Comedy Awards and it has been praised for the variety of shows it broadcasts, an achievement considering it broadcasts for only 10 hours a day.
Those wishing to see BBC 4 cut may not have long to wait however, long term it appears the BBC will move more content online only, saving the prime location of BBC 1 and 2 only for high demand shows, with some suggesting the posibiliy of the channels mirroring Radio 1 and 2, with 1 offering younger orientated programing and new shows, and 2 targeting an older audience with long term dramas and documentaries.
The BBC are set to make an official announceent tomorrow, but have all but confirmed the fate of the channel, it remains to be seen if public support will make them think twice.
Update: BBC confirm that BBC 3 is to be moved to online only, station to be replaced with a BBC 1 +1 service. – 6 March 2014