BBC Three changes approved: end of the linear TV channel

20 months after it was first announced, it's been confirmed that the BBC Three TV channel will close and go online-only.

The BBC Trust today gave the green light on the move following two public consultations on the matter. The changes will take place early next year.

Ahead of the changes, the BBC will undertake a massive, but platform-neutral promotional campaign to make viewers aware of what's happening to the service. 

There will be a brief phased migration online from January 2016 until the end of February 2016, during which BBC Three's TV channel will become a promotional channel advertising the change. From the beginning of March, BBC Three will be an online-only service.

The controversial move sees the only BBC channel that regularly attracts an audience with an average age of under 35 and a high proportion of low-income and minority viewers being moved to an online portal, which will combine regular programmes with special created-for-the-web short videos alongside social media collaborations. As a result, the BBC Trust has imposed strict conditions:

  • The BBC Trust has said that BBC Three programmes must continue to be given timeslots on BBC One and Two, and that it must broadcast BBC Three shows "at a variety of times across the schedule". 
  • And it has threatened to impose quotas 18 months after BBC Three's move online if there are shortcomings in BBC content reaching low income and minority groups.

Since the move was first proposed, a number of BBC Three programmes have been snapped up by BBC Two, including Russell Howard's Good News, Backchat and Hair. Popular animated series Family Guy and American Dad were moved to BBC Two earlier this year, not long after it emerged that ITV2 was taking over screening new episodes of both shows from now on.

Once BBC Three goes online-only, there is only expected to be two hours of 'regular' or long-form BBC Three programmes a week that will air on BBC One or BBC Two, although as this refers to new and original content, it's difficult to equate that with the current BBC Three TV channel output, which includes films and many hours of repeats. In fact, earlier this year, there was barely two hours of new content on the channel each week.

Other developments
CBBC is due to take two hours of BBC Three's current broadcast bandwidth, extending its schedule until 9pm, but there's no new content for the children's channel thanks to budget constraints.

The BBC had originally proposed to launch BBC One+1 once BBC Three had been removed from TV, however that plan was rejected earlier this year by the BBC Trust following pressure from commercial broadcasters, and it upheld its decision to reject the channel in its statement today. The most recent plans for BBC One+1 would have seen the channel operate as a 24 hour UK wide standard definition channel, but not available to viewers without a Freeview HD compatible device.

The BBC has so far been rather cagey about what it intends to do with the vacant bandwidth after 9pm until the early hours of the morning, the BBC Trust wants to know exactly what Management have planned. More here...

  • This is an updated version of the article first published at midday.

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  1. ...and the "establishment" wonders why the people of this country are so disillusioned with things like politics and democracy? The BBC Trust (elected by no-one, appointed by the "establishment") has consulted the people, and then completely disregarded what they have said in order to do what they proposed in the first place. It's laughable, if only it wasn't so serious. Adults in the 18-35 age bracket, as well as being discriminated in the workplace (minimum wage), benefits (only older than 25), tax system (they pay the same community charge and income tax as well as VAT) are now to be victimised by the latest government cuts. No wonder they are driven to direct action!! (And no, i'm NOT a young adult, i'm 53 and ashamed at how our country has deteriorated in the last 25 years).

  2. I couldn't have put it better Bryan... Well said! The old boy's club run these sham consultations knowing fine well they'll do what they' like anyway! I'm the same age as you; and have watched almost EVERY social advance our parents and grandparents fought to build asset-stripped away over the past 35 years. - The BBC is just one more example. 100 years on from WW1 and we seem to have the donkeys back in charge!


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