BBC3 goes online only – sacrificing the young for the old


So farewell BBC3.

Unloved by the media, looked down upon by politicians; when the cuts came there was no one to save it from the axe.

Dumbed down, crass, perhaps even idiotic. The charges against it had some merit, after all who will miss Snog, Marry, Avoid?

Well, the target audience.

The channel had a loyal following among 16-34 year olds, in particular the lower end of that demographic.

In an era when young adults increasingly don’t watch linear television, 11.2 million people watched BBC3 each week. A million of them didn’t watch any other TV channel.

And it was more than just post-pub TV.

The channel had a fine record in modern sit-com and comedy drama. Little Britain, The Might Boosh, Gavin and Stacey and Being Human all started out there.

Although Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps perhaps shows that the commissioners didn’t always get it right.

But it was expensive.

Its budget was £86 million in 2014/15 and with the BBC under pressure to save money this was an easy saving to get past middle-aged regulators and the politicians who never watched it.

The BBC argues it’s following the audience online, that it will still spend £30 million on original content for digital delivery and that there will still be repeats on BBC1 and 2.

But when I told my media students it was going online only there were groans all around the room.

Maintaining a brand online is tricky; what will BBC3 mean to the next generation of viewers without a space on the broadcast spectrum?

The BBC needs to appeal to younger viewers and to encourage them to identify with its services and channels.

And the way to do that is not to cut BBC Young in favour of maintaining BBC Old.


This is a cross-post of a piece I wrote for the University of Northampton



The end of the road for the BBC Trust

I was at the IPPR’s Oxford Media Convention today to listen to Rona Fairhead talk about what might replace the BBC Trust.

Despite saying she didn’t want her time as BBC Trust chair to be overshadowed by discussions about governance, she’s ensured that will have to be part of the conversation through charter renewal. And there’s nothing like pre-announcing your departure to weaken your negotiating hand.

Her position is relatively collegiate at this stage. She recognises the need for a new system of governance and is suggesting an enhanced BBC board with a separate body for regulation. That’s not dissimilar to the suggestion from the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

It’s been clear for some time that the BBC Trust was compromised. Under Lord Patten it was too ready to be both defender and cheerleader for the BBC. Rona Fairhead’s suggestion aims make it clearer where responsibility for governance lies.

Which is why I was surprised that she ruled out Ofcom as a potential regulator saying the BBC’s complexity means it needs a dedicated and bespoke regulator.

As someone who’s developed new broadcast and digital services that have had to contend with the 800lb gorilla that is the BBC I think that’s disappointing. If we want to level the regulatory field, a single regulator seems to me to be the most sensible answer.


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