Thursday, March 06, 2014

People like me don't watch BBC Three - which is why they should keep it

The easiest things for the BBC to cut are the things the chattering classes don't rush to defend. This looks as if it's going to be BBC Three.

I would guess Tony Hall and his people have been weighing up whether tis better to take something away from their middle-aged, middle class core audience, which they already super serve, or to quietly withdraw something from younger consumers of broader entertainment, who don't pay the licence fee themselves and are less brand loyal than previous generations.

It's a hell of a choice and it's one that newspapers have responded to by putting up the prices of their products - thereby penalising the people who care about them - in order to give them away free to other people who aren't that bothered. The difference with the BBC is that the licence fee model means the cost to the user remains the same, no matter how much or how little they may use the service.

And the real problem they are storing up for the future is that the people they have to worry about most - the young people of today, who should be the licence fee payers of the future - use them less and less. Radio listening among young people is declining (so there ought to be less need to pay Radio One presenters so much money that they need to lose some of it in the motor trade) and their TV habits are completely different from yours or mine. The BBC's not a good thing because it provides lots of things you like. It's a good thing because it also provides lots of things that you don't like - one of those things may be BBC Three.

I don't buy the idea the BBC is at death's door. They're the only media organisation on earth that has a clue what its revenue is going to be next year and the year after that. I often feel that the people who are in the greatest hurry to "defend" the organisation put forward the least rational arguments for it. The real crisis for the BBC will be in ten years time when the generation who've grown up with You Tube have the licence fee explained to them. That's going to be a tough sell. Without BBC Three it may be just that bit tougher.


  1. As you say, a hell of a choice. But what would you rather they cut that would save that much money?

  2. ...and maybe, "in ten years' time when the generation who've grown up with You Tube have the licence fee explained to them", they'll be thinking oh yes, BBC 3, that's the one I've been watching online which doesn't have irritating ads before every showing like You Tube, and isn't tracking my every move through Google, and provides me with what I want rather like Netflix but at a fraction of the cost...

  3. They are keeping it, just online/iplayer - I believe 'young people' are users of such information channels. I would think those who choose to watch BBC3 would generally have the required access? And would likely but watch at broadcast time. I watch virtually no live broadcast tv, using either PVR or online catchup services. I watch BBC3 but doubt I would notice it was not being 'transmitted' through the air (how 20th century!)

  4. Given that television programmes are increasingly transmitted the internet, I don't believe that moving BBC Three off of the "traditional" broadcast platforms is going to be the end of the channel.

    What I don't understand is why there is a proposal to use the BBC Three broadcast bandwidth to provide BBC One +1. Won't that mean that no money has been saved?

  5. No money saved? I think the argument is terrestrial TV needs content throughout the time it is on air. Generating or procuring that is expensive. If they replaced it with +1 service, the content is pretty much already paid for and the iplayer service doesn't need to fill quite as many hours.

  6. The proposition that BBC3 is a channel delivering challenging content with a target age range 16-34 years is a setup. It provides the cop out argument that you don't understand this style of programming, disabling debate about content being any good. You are too old to get it; as if nobody over the age of 35 years appreciated Joy Division those years ago.

    Programme writers and producers generally want to write content for the widest possible audience. They want people to enjoy their creation, especially people who think "this isn't for me". Gavin and Stacey (like it or not) started off on BBC3 and found its way onto the bigger channels: where the writers hoped it would be in the first place.

    Some producers create BBC3 air time fodder; staff get paid but broadcasting this crap has led to the demise.

    BBC3 has had a long time to establish an identity and has found one: programmes that aren't very good.

    cf BBC4.

  7. Hi Julian,
    My point regarding the overall cost is that the two main amounts must be the cost of creating the content and the cost of broadcasting it. The BBC say that they’re still going to be creating new BBC Three content so presumably (and hopefully) that expenditure will remain unchanged.
    And if the number of channels that the BBC broadcasts on the various platforms is also not being reduced then the broadcast cost must also remain predominantly static.
    So where is the saving that the BBC claims will justify this change?

  8. When I worked at the BBC the commissioners could never give a categoric answer about who their audience was for BBC3. I always considered it a youth channel (ie under 21's) but we were constantly told the channel's viewers were much older hence 'Don't Tell the Bride' etc and needed to provide programmes for them too. The comedy was good when there was money to spend but it's been terrible in the last couple of years.