BBC3 'could be set for a return four years after it was axed'

BBC3 ‘could be set for a return four years after it was axed’ as bosses look at ways to revamp youth-orientated output

  • Corporation bosses at the Beeb are looking at re-introducing BBC Three channel
  • The channel was axed four years ago and content moved online to BBC iPlayer
  • The BBC wants to broaden appeal beyond its traditional metropolitan heartlands 

It was axed as a regular TV channel just four years ago to save money.

But BBC Three could now be reinstated by the corporation as part of ‘radical’ plans to shake up what it offers to youngsters.

BBC Three was shifted online in 2016, sparking a huge backlash from fans.

But it is understood corporation bosses, looking at moving BBC Three back on to TV, have been buoyed by the creative success of comedies such as Fleabag and This Country.

The move online saw the service stop operating as a channel, instead offering content to be streamed or downloaded on iPlayer. There was a view before it moved online that BBC Three relied heavily on things like EastEnders repeats and US animation Family Guy [File photo]

As part of wider changes, the BBC also wants to broaden its appeal beyond its traditional metropolitan heartlands and reach out to less well-off viewers. 

But moving BBC Three back on to traditional TV would be regarded as a strange decision by many, as the current trend is towards streaming content on services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

It would also raise eyebrows as running TV channels is expensive. When the BBC first announced the plans to close the channel, it said the move would save it more than £50million per year.

During the time BBC Three was still a TV channel it was viewed by 11.2 million people each week, reaching about a quarter of 16 to 24-year-olds. 

BBC Three was shifted online in 2016, sparking a huge backlash from fans. But it is understood corporation bosses, looking at moving BBC Three back on to TV, have been buoyed by the creative success of comedies such as Fleabag and This Country, seen above

The move online saw the service stop operating as a channel, instead offering content to be streamed or downloaded on iPlayer. 

There was a view before it moved online that BBC Three relied heavily on things like EastEnders repeats and US animation Family Guy. 

But some now feel it is stronger than it was when the service was demoted.

Appearing at the Media and Telecoms 2020 and Beyond conference yesterday, BBC director general Tony Hall defended the decision to take BBC Three off TV screens four years ago.

He said the money saved had been moved to drama, which had benefited from the money, and was in ‘fantastic shape’.

But Lord Hall added: ‘When we announce our annual plan… at the end of this month, I will have something to say about BBC Three and its future then.’

He said the current creative output on the channel – ‘wholly focused’ on younger audiences – had been ‘utterly brilliant’.

Sources were keen to stress no decision had yet been taken but the move was under consideration. It is being looked at alongside a range of options aimed at improving the BBC’s appeal.

A spokesman for the corporation declined to rule out that it would bring BBC Three back.

Stop calling us Auntie, says Beeb boss

Director general Tony Hall has said the BBC is shedding its ‘Auntie’ image so it can build a ‘warmer relationship’ with the public.

The corporation boss suggested the nickname – a reference to its reputation for telling people what is best for them – was a relic of the past.

He said the BBC should play a more personal role with the public where it was ‘interwoven into the fabric of all our lives’.

The broadcaster is desperately trying to find new ways of attracting audiences in the wake of competition from modern players such as Netflix and Amazon.

It is understood Lord Hall is keen for a ‘less dictatorial’ tone in the way the corporation communicates with the licence-fee payers.

He said: ‘I hope we are developing and continuing to develop a much warmer relationship with the British public which is less the “Auntie” of two or three decades ago.’

The broadcaster is believed to have got its nickname because of a patronising ‘Auntie knows best’ attitude in the 1950s and 60s.

The BBC’s own archives say it arose in those decades to contrast its ‘prudish’ and ‘puritanical’ tone with that of ITV.

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