How they SHOULD have saved BBC Three…

Could the Beeb have kept BBC Three going and return it to its former glory? We offer an alternative hypothesis…

In short, let’s scrap BBC Three, scrap CBBC (BBC Children’s Division) and merge both in to a more relevant and appealing channel with content that doesn’t patronise and speak down to a young demographic. Let’s also improve the iPlayer with online classic content which is both available free and available to buy for download.

Next month it will be a whole year since BBC Three made the jump to internet-only programming. You know, the internet, where the cool kids go to ‘surf’.

Although they’ve gone on to produce some genuinely decent television, the poor ratings of the Doctor Who spin-off series ‘Class’, both online and on BBC One (repeats), have sadly proven that BBC Three has essentially become a bit of a dumping ground. Many may disagree, but I don’t see BBC Three being active this time next year. Sure, they’ll still run decent comedy and drama that will be available and available only via the iPlayer, but will there be any point in keeping the ‘BBC Three’ brand name? Nah.

I still feel it was wrong for the BBC to dump their ‘yoof’ channel in this way, not that it was in a particular good place when it was put down in February of 2016. BBC Three became a shadow of its former self and looked nothing like the channel that gave birth to likes of ‘Little Britain’, ‘Gavin and Stacey’, ‘The Mighty Boosh’, ‘Being Human’, ‘Our War’ and many other fanatic award winning comedy, drama and documentary.

The main reason for BBC 3 becoming an online-only channel is primarily down to the channel’s programme budget being cut in half to £30m, however there are many other factors for this drastic move.

The proposal was been provisionally approved by the BBC Trust, the independent body which oversees the running of the whole Corporation. The Trust said that there is clear evidence that under-25s have been watching far less ‘traditional’ TV over the past two years and many believe that a becoming online-only is not only a way to save the BBC up to £30m, but also the “only way” the BBC can keep up to date with today’s “cool kids”.

I could talk forever about whether or not the move online is a good thing by endlessly referencing Netflix (everybody’s first point of call when arguing for the demise of television) or talk about how BBC 1, 2 and 4 will look weird in the TV listings without a BBC 3, or how those few without smartphones, tablets and computers who pay their TV licence will miss out – but I won’t.

Could they have kept the channel going and return it to its former glory? Probably not, but could I? Absolutely not, however I’m going to put forward an ideal of how I, as a member of  the 16-35 BBC Three demographic, would have liked to see the BBC keep its youth programming…

First off, the argument on whether the move is a good idea is irrelevant to me, instead I’m going state how I, in a hypothetical scenario would like to have seen the BBC keep its’ main programming on television, whilst improving its’ online iPlayer content. I want to express that this is simply personal preference on what I would like to see from the BBC, not taking in to account any solid audience or market research.

In short, let’s scrap BBC Three, scrap CBBC (BBC Children’s Division) and merge both in to a more relevant and appealing channel with content that doesn’t patronise and speak down to a young demographic. Let’s also improve the iPlayer with online classic content which is both available free and available to buy for download.

CBBC is run in BBC North as part of the BBC Children’s division and BBC Three is run back down south and managed separately to other channels.

I wonder if (sadly at the cost of redundancies) BBC Children’s Division should be merged with BBC Three into a new department that concentrates on Children and Young adults. A focussed team working on one channel (whether it be named BBC Three or not) who provide content throughout the day and in to the small hours with the appropriate content for the appropriate time of day.

It’s worth noting that BBC Three and the CBBC channel shared the same stream with CBBC operating from 7am to 7pm (now 9pm) and BBC Three formerly broadcasting from 7pm until around 3-4am. So why not broadcast through one channel and under one brand?

I feel that such a move would improve both channels’ output. Watching CBBC recently (Yes I’m 28… it was… research?) it seems that the content is consistent and that’s in no way a good thing. If you remember the good old days of CBBC broadcasting from around 3pm until 5:30pm on BBC one, you’ll remember how within the two hours, the programs that broadcast at the beginning of this CBBC period would be aimed more towards pre-school and as we approached 5pm, the shows would become a lot more aimed at teenagers with dramas such as Grange Hill and Byker Grove. With CBBC and BBC Three combined. A CBBC/Three merge could work to the same formula with shows appropriate for young children broadcast until around 5pm for youngsters after schools and then slightly more mature programming around 5-7pm for young adults after work and then even more mature in to the evening and past the watershed with the shows currently found on BBC Three.

I could be wrong but as it occurs to me, a lot of BBC Three’s actual audience is lower than their targeted demographic. Are you seriously telling me that there are not a mass of 12-15 year old’s who tune in every night to watch Family Guy? Such show’s seem popular to young teenagers because they feel they’re watching “adult TV” and I don’t know about you but when it comes to “Children’s BBC” – around the age of 9/10, I resented being labelled “a child” who has to watch “Children’s BBC” – so why don’t we lose the patronising “Children’s” label and stop making them feel segregated from other television and give them programming which is packaged in an adult way! No wonder kids in the ’90s turned over to watch TV channels named ‘Trouble’

So what about BBC Four, would that need to change? Not at all, if such a change I suggested above were to happen, you would have the BBC’s output separated and organised in to a mainstream BBC One, slightly more alternative and “high-brow” BBC Two, a youth & young adult focussed BBC Three and Culture/Arts focused BBC Four. The merge of BBC Three and CBBC would cause the loss of jobs and potentially a cost at re-branding, however the core-focus of such a channel could give the BBC a real injection of relevance without having to make the drastic decision to move a whole channel off television and risk defeat in the face of Netflix and other online-only streaming services.

Something that can’t be ignored is the current situation of the iPlayer. Part of me feels that the BBC is moved Three online to help boost its content and popularity among streaming competitors. My solution to competing with services such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix is simple, the BBC has the best library of television and radio shows in the world, why not embrace that within the iPlayer?

In the past few years, the BBC has currently begun allowing us to download TV box sets via the BBC Store, but why bother having them on a separate page when the two could co-exist? In my opinion the whole (available) BBC library should be integrated within the iPlayer. With iPlayer separated in an easy to use ‘catch up’/’watch now’ and ‘TV box-sets’ section, the iPlayer would be a forced to be reckoned with among online streaming services, regardless of whether or not some of the content would require buying to download or stream.

Ultimately this little scenario I have here may be redundant due to actual costs and the general reality and restrictions of running a public-funded television station. However, I just wanted to state how I would like to have seen the BBC sweep up and condense it’s product, which I think we can all agree has been over-crowded for far too long.

What do YOU think? Have your say in the comments section, or join the conversation over on Twitter or Facebook.

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1 Comment

  1. BBC Three’s identity as a channel would be lost if it was merged with CBBC. They’re two completely different channels aimed at different audiences. Older teenagers aren’t going to want to watch a channel that also shows CBBC programmes either, even if it’s only earlier in the day. If the BBC were going to merge channels to save money, then merging CBBC with Cbeebies would make more sense. Have programmes for younger kids earlier in the day and up to the age of 12 (CBBC’s target audience) until 7pm at night.

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