It is not surprising to learn today the BBC Trust has approved the online-only move. It claims to be on the side of the viewer, but has ignored viewers throughout this lengthy and costly process. Some will argue this was a done deal from the start with the BBC Trust chair expressing support for the move before consultation begun. Even the BBC admits in reports there was “very little appetite” for these plans, but they pressed ahead.
The decision is bitterly disappointing and it is a very sad day for the future of the BBC. The BBC said the reason for doing this was to find £30m to fund programming for BBC1, that’s a television service already hugely funded by our licence fee. With The Voice now lost by the BBC it will save about the same amount they needed from closing BBC3. But the BBC failed to make that connection. It appears this is an example of young people being hit the hardest by cuts yet again.
They claim young people are moving away from watching live television. I believe the key reason why young adults are turning their back on television is not because they’re not interested, it’s because it’s one of the main areas television networks cutback on when it comes to cuts. The BBC admits their online-only version of BBC3 will be less value for money and it will bring fewer viewers. Yet it’s ignoring these facts as it ploughs on with a decision the very people that fund the BBC do not support. Still the BBC’s loss is E4 and ITV2’s gain – no doubt they will be the main benefactors from this should BBC3 go in March.
We will now mull over this decision. If the decision can be challenged independently of the BBC and BBC Trust we will do so. With hundreds of thousands on our side there’s still time to challenge this sham process.
Over 300,000 signed the consultation at change.org/savebbc3
Read our 12-page dossier submitted to the BBC Trust explaining why the plans are wrong here.
A decision from the BBC Trust on the future of BBC Three is expected at 12pm on Thursday 26 November.
Jono Read from the #SaveBBC3 campaign gives his initial view on why the BBC Trust should u-turn on its initial recommendation:
“BBC Three is the one television service from the BBC that is there for young adults. It is the one channel that allows the BBC to nurture new talent and test formats. It has aired some ground-breaking documentaries and dramas in recent months – shows that have all trended on social media. To lose this distinctive service would be a sad day for the BBC, and it would be a sign of the BBC turning its back on a generation already under-served by the corporation.
If the BBC Trust is truly there to represent the viewer on Thursday it will reject proposals from the BBC to make BBC Three an “online-only” service. So far both the BBC and BBC Trust has failed to listen. The voice of the majority is in favour of keeping it on television. From the 300,000+ names on our petition to the BBC Trust’s own polling and consultations. They all point to wanting this channel to stay on television. Any other decision from the BBC Trust would show disregard for the people who pay the licence fee or are future licence fee payers.
A lot has changed in recent months. The architect of these proposals Danny Cohen has left the BBC. The service the BBC said they wanted BBC Three to mirror – VICE – has announced plans to move from online-only to launching television channels too as it recognises the power of television. And The Voice has been lost by the BBC. This would save the corporation in the region of £30m – approximately the same figure the BBC wants to save from closing BBC3 to respend on BBC1 audiences.
It would be the perfect time for the BBC Trust to perform a u-turn.”
It’s been reported the BBC Trust will make their final decision on BBC3 next week. We hope that the BBC Trust takes the decision to fully listen to the thousands of you who contacted them last month about the move. Even more as there have been some developments since I last wrote.
Danny Cohen, the Director of BBC Television, announced unexpectedly he was leaving the BBC last month. Danny was the architect of plans to make BBC Three online-only and to slash the channel’s programming budget in half. Commentators have said if BBC Three stayed on TV it would be a big blow to Mr Cohen – with him gone it makes it a little easier to reverse the decision.
Moreover VICE has announced they are planning to launch a television channel. VICE is the internet service that BBC bosses repeatedly referred to as being what they wanted BBC Three to become when it moves online-only. VICE, however, now wants to be on television to rival channels like E4 and BBC Three, making it all the more questionable what the BBC is doing. Even ITV are criticising the move to pour money into television expensive series like The Voice while cutting distinctive services like BBC3.
Whether the decision turns out to be a ‘done deal’ or not I assure you that the campaign will not stop there. We will do our utmost to hold those responsible for BBC Three closing on television if it happens, and we’ve got a lot more fight left in us yet.
Fingers crossed for next week.
The SaveBBC3 campaign has made a written submission to the BBC Trust’s consultation over BBC Three, claiming that the BBC’s proposals are a “face saving” exercise, slamming the Trust’s latest decision which ignored public opinion, and criticising the organisation for not doing more to stop the dismantling of the channel.
The campaigners claim that the BBC Trust’s June provisional decision to agree with the BBC’s plans to halve the content budget and move the channel off television went against the Trust’s own ICM telephone and the BBC’s GfK polling, the own original consultation of 23,000 responses, the BBC audience councils in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the 300,000 names on the #SaveBBC3 petition. They believe the BBC Director General and BBC Trust chair ignoring public contradicts the claims that they wanted the public to have a greater say in the BBC decisions ahead of the Charter Renewal.
There is also concern that the package of changes the BBC is proposing will become a “face saving” exercise rather than a “cost saving” exercise because the BBC has not revealed what it will do with spare capacity earmarked for BBC1+1 and existing space for BBC Three and BBC Three HD, and because it is tripling advertising spend to an non-disclosed amount on advertising and branding the new online service, and creating online partnerships. The campaigners blame the rushed transition period of just 2.5 months as the reason the BBC is having to do this, and is calling on the BBC to disclose the full amount it will have to spend in advertising and to reveal what it plans to do with the spare space. The #SaveBBC3 campaign criticises the BBC and BBC Trust for not explaining the proposals better to the BBC Three audience, and for not promoting the consultation enough since it launched. It says almost 12,000 responses were sent through the SaveBBC3.com website because the original did not speak to the target audience who will be impacted by the plans.
In the 12-page document to be sent to the BBC Trust ahead of the consultation closing on 30 September it will also criticise BBC directors for their contradictory claims. It refers to James Purnell, BBC Director of Strategy, who told the DCMS Select Committee this month that the corporation was trying to launch BBC1+1 because a large number of young audiences did not have access to online content, and that television channels would be around for a long period of time. He added they would not be replaced by on-demand. At the same meeting it was revealed the number of senior managers being paid over £160,000 had also increased by 66 to 74 in the past year, while the BBC had outlined a number of new initiatives in the past year since announcing the closure of BBC Three which contradicted the need to save money. These included services for North Korea and Russia, reporters for local newspapers, extended CBBC hours, an ideas service, the BBC Music awards, free technology for schools, a rival to Spotify, and a new iPlayer for children. The campaigners believe this should not be a priority when BBC Three is to be closed on television. They point out the BBC’s key reason in its application for closing BBC Three was not a change in audience behaviours or a desire to save money but to respend all £30m that was saved on BBC1 drama. The campaigners argue BBC1 is a channel already significantly funded by licence fee payers. The document refers to the government’s green paper, which recommended the BBC provides distinctive programming rather than chasing ratings – which it argues BBC Three does better than BBC One. The BBC application reveals the service will be less cost-effective jumping from 8.1p per hour in 2014/15 to 23p per hour if it moves online. There are worries this will lead to the axing of youth content altogether.
The campaign says the BBC Trust has not done enough to stop the dismantling of BBC Three with new programming appearing on BBC One and Two in a failed experiment. It points to an average of 50% smaller ratings for new Hair and Family Guy on BBC Two compared to Three, and a smaller 16-34 year old audience for Don’t Tell The Bride on BBC One. It points out the criticism that the BBC got for changing the format of the show when it moved, the changing timeslots for shows like Family Guy on BBC Two (up to two hours later than the first new episode at 10pm), and expresses concerns the future of content will be less distinctive without BBC Three. It refers to the number of repeated shows that have been accelerated in recent months – including the same Family Guy up to three or four times a week on BBC Three. New Orphan Black at the end of the month will also only air around 2.30am in the morning, in a bid to shrink ratings on television and to increase online viewing. It criticises the axing of shows like In The Flesh and Free Speech, and the Reading and Leeds move to BBC Four where young audiences were less likely to find it. With ITV2 and E4 posting moderate growth it believes the BBC has failed to justify why BBC Three should therefore close. It says the cuts to content and the BBC’s desire to shrink audience contradicts the BBC’s mission statement to increase reach to young audiences when the BBC has revealed there will be a smaller audience online.
The campaign reaffirms its position that the best result would be for the BBC Trust and BBC to go back to the drawing board and keep BBC Three on television. It says the BBC should look at alternative ways to save money.
However it recognises the consultation is based around the conditions the BBC Trust have proposed, and has called for tougher requirements. This includes forcing the BBC to provide further evidence that BBC Three cannot succeed on television compared to online, to force the BBC to demonstrate the successes of an online service if it launches – before the channel closes on television, for the BBC to reveal what it proposes to do with the vacant EPG slots and television space, and for the BBC to reveal the true costs of the online service including the total spends that will be made on marketing, advertising and partnerships with other online providers. It also wants to see the BBC explain why all £30m in savings should be respent on the BBC1 audience rather than a service that best reaches young audiences.
It is calling on the BBC to provide firm plans for how much programming will appear on BBC1 and BBC2 – including clear quotas. It wants to see the BBC explain how it will continue to deliver programming accessible for young deaf and blind audiences that access audio description and sign zone services on BBC Three. It also wants to see the BBC reassess the market impact of the Trust not giving the go-ahead to BBC1+1 and closing BBC Three on television, as there are fears such a move will diminish the offering on platforms like Freeview.
The campaign agrees with the Trust that proposals for BBC1+1 cannot go ahead when it contradicts what the BBC is planning to do to BBC Three, and believes extended hours for CBBC cannot go ahead when it contradicts the Trust’s polling and when there is no additional budget available to produce content for those extra hours.
It is concerned the BBC is opening itself up to legal action from Hat Trick and Avalon, who felt ignored in the previous consultation, and from media organisations like Virgin Media who have expressed a desire to act as a third-party online partner for BBC Three but were not mentioned in the BBC’s original proposals.
The #SaveBBC3 petition can be signed at www.change.org/savebbc3. The remaining 29,000 petition signatures and comments will be handed to the BBC Trust as part of this consultation process.
As part of the continued dismantling of BBC Three the Reading and Leeds Festival will appear on BBC Four this year, with some limited coverage on the BBC Red Button.
BBC bosses are accused of dismantling the channel to shrink the healthy viewing figures to justify closing the channel.
Airing the likes of the Libertines and Mumford and Sons on BBC Four could be seen as a strategy to increase ratings for the channel, while the lack of publicity for the TV service could have been a deliberate to push audiences online to watch content.
In previous years BBC Three has hosted coverage from 7pm until 11pm all weekend but will instead air repeats of content already aired throughout the week. Friday’s Reading and Leeds coverage will not start on the BBC Red Button until 9.30pm due to other commitments.
Those angered by the continual dismantling of BBC Three are urged to sign the BBC Trust consultation urging for programming to be reinstated, and for BBC Three to be kept on TV.
The BBC has been accused of hiding the latest consultation about BBC Three from viewers of the station.
The #SaveBBC3 campaigners – who are urging the BBC to rethink plans to close BBC Three on television – have been pushing for the BBC and BBC Trust to widely publicise the petition to BBC Three’s target audience.
At the time of writing the BBC had made just one tweet during the day on the BBC Three Twitter page about the consultation, and there had been no mention on BBC Three’s Facebook page. The consultation opened last Wednesday.
This is the last opportunity supporters of the channel have to respond to the BBC Trust before a final decision is made at the end of September.
The #SaveBBC3 campaigners are urging supporters to bypass the long-winded survey on the website and head to its own website to register unhappiness with the proposals. It says already thousands have responded this way. However the campaigners want as many young people as possible to read about the the proposals, and they are concerned many still do not know because of the BBC’s lack of publicity.
23,000 people responded to the last phase of consultation with a majority opposed to the move, while 300,000 signed the SaveBBC3 petition against the proposals. Over half of those surveyed by the BBC Trust earlier this year in separate ICM polling said they would not watch a BBC Three online.
Jono Read, creator of the #SaveBBC3 campaign, said: “At the first phase of consultation the BBC and BBC Trust ignored the views of young people, now it seems they are doing their best to stop them responding whatsoever. The BBC should be honest with the audience and tell them that they are planning to take the channel off TV by March, and push for their opinions in whatever way possible. At the moment it seems to be in a state of denial. One post a week on one social media is unacceptable and shows the disregard they have for young people.”
“The BBC executive’s response to the BBC Trust has raised more questions than it has given answers. The BBC will give viewers just three months from a BETA launch of BBC Three online to migrate from TV to the service, and there is no guarantee the repeated BBC3 programming will appear on BBC1 and 2 longer term for those unable to access the service. Moreover the BBC has not outlined how it proposes to use the space left vacant from a lack of BBC1+1, BBC3 and BBC3 HD while it continues to pay for carrier costs.”
“Their strategy so far has been a failure with the corporation admitting a ‘lack of appetite’ for the move, smaller ratings for Family Guy on BBC Two compared to BBC Three, and mixed reaction to BBC One’s Don’t Tell The Bride. Next week it will try Reading and Leeds coverage on BBC Four rather than BBC Three. We think it’s time for the management to go back to the drawing board.”
Supporters of the #SaveBBC3 campaign can go to www.savebbc3.com/response to fire off an email to BBC Trust.
In recent weeks E4 has mocked the closure of BBC3 on-air claiming to be shortly the only free-to-air channel for 16 to 24 year olds on television, while BBC2 was ridiculed for not knowing the key characters of Family Guy when introducing the programme.