BBC3 set to be axed as part of BBC plans to save money

Digital TV channel BBC3 is set to be axed as part of the latest bout of cost-cutting at the corporation.

The plans will be announced today but many of its shows, aimed at a younger audience than more mainstream channels, are expected to be transferred directly to the iPlayer.

In a speech last week to the Oxford Media Convention, director-general Tony Hall said the BBC needed to make more cuts but ruled out “salami slicing” from every department and said he wanted to “focus on what we do best”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That sparked speculation that either BBC4 or BBC3 would be axed, and corporation bosses believe BBC3’s audience would be more likely to access content online and that any move to cut the more high-brow BBC4 would face criticism.

An online campaign opposing the move has already been launched and has been backed by some of the stars who launched their careers on the channel.

Jack Whitehall, who wrote and starred in Bad Education on the channel, tweeted: “I really hope reports that the BBC may kill BBC3 are just rumours. Their support of new comedy in particular is vital!”

Little Britain star Matt Lucas said closure would be “really bad for new comedy”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Any proposal to close the channel or move it wholesale to the iPlayer would have to be approved by the BBC Trust, the corporation’s governing body.

The BBC has already experimented with launching shows on iPlayer before mainstream television – a year ago it announced a new sitcom by Peter Kay would have an online premiere.

The possible closure echoes the situation in 2010 when the BBC proposed pulling the plug on two of its digital radio services, 6 Music and Asian Network, prompting a backlash from listeners, celebrities and even MPs.

The outlined cuts were as a result of a strategy review which had the aim of shaving millions of pounds from the BBC budget. Figures such as David Bowie, Coldplay and record industry executives gave their support to 6 Music, which at the time cost around £9m a year to run.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But the publicity surrounding the possible demise had the effect of driving up listening and awareness of the station which at the time was something of a niche concern.

The BBC Trust eventually rejected the closure of 6 Music which has gone on to see its audience treble. Plans to close the Asian Network were also dropped in the end.