Campaigners urge BBC Trust to announce BBC Three decision
The #saveBBC3 social media campaign follows accusations that the BBC is already 'dismantling' the channel - accusations that have been circulating for the past month. BBC Three's Free Speech programme at the end of March concluded with the announcement that it would appear online, not on television in the future.
BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat Election Debates have been scheduled elsewhere, despite the overlap between BBC Three's and Newsbeat's target age groups, and BBC Three TV's remit to broadcast news and current affairs to younger audiences. The Newsbeat debate last week replaced the BBC News Channel's usual rolling news service and was repeated late night on BBC Two (after midnight in Scotland), the type of slot earmarked for residual BBC Three TV content from this autumn. It has provoked fears that this is in effect a dry-run for post-BBC Three TV closure.
And the BBC has been winding down content on BBC Three, with new episodes of Family Guy moving to ITV2 from the autumn and other series cancelled. BBC Three's budget looks set to be slashed with money being transferred to fund BBC One drama, including Sherlock and Doctor Who. Funding would also be raised for proposed new timeshift channel BBC One+1.
The BBC says younger audiences have moved online and wants to build more services for them, including short bitesize segments alongside some traditional length programmes. It believes the move reflects where younger audiences are.
The BBC's Damian Kavanagh wrote in January: "Freed from the linear schedule new BBC Three would be able to make content younger audiences tell us they want. Content about the issues that matter to them. We would be able do this faster, get it out quicker, and let our audiences know where it is in new ways. We would make content for the places they are, on Snapchat and What’s App, on Tumblr and Facebook, on Twitter and YouTube"
Despite research showing that children have drifted the furthest from traditional TV broadcasts, the BBC wants to invest in an extra two hours a day of linear TV for the oldest CBBC viewers, using some of the bandwidth currently used by BBC Three, leaving a vacant slot from 9pm.
The BBC plans to launch BBC One+1 using a new 24 hour standard definition slot on satellite, cable and Freeview - but, in a change to the original plans, the channel would only be available on newer Freeview HD receivers at launch. Proposals made public in January indicate that the BBC Three slot on Freeview channel 7 would not go to BBC One+1, paving the way for local TV channels to be promoted.
Despite calls from campaigners for a speedy announcement of what many feel is a foregone decision to take BBC Three off traditional TV services, an announcement before the election would be seen as highly political, with the future of the BBC and the licence fee in the hands of whoever wins the election when the Corporation's Charter Renewal process is due to commence. Additionally, Ofcom will be feeding into the decision making process with its assessment.