The BBC Director General, Tony Hall, has announced that BBC Three will close as a broadcast channel in 2015, due in part to the freeze of the License Fee.
This is a historic first for the co-operation as it has effectively closed one of its own channels; regardless of the fact that BBC Three will continue to ‘exist’ online through the iPlayer.
In terms of its effect on the TV Industry; the announcement has been met with anger from anonymous Twitter users to celebrities like Matt Lucas, whose career effectively began on BBC Three through Little Britain.
In terms of the effect on its viewers; the results will be catastrophic. Those much-needed nightly double episodes of Family Guy aside, in an age where the BBC has now more than ever commissioned bland and cliche mainstream shows to please its departing audience – whether it be the complete failure of The Voice or the muted reaction to several high-profile dramas like The White Queen and Death Comes To Pemberley – BBC Three was rare in the event that most of its programming, embarrassing reality TV shows aside, was exciting, high quality television whom droves of viewers adored.
Take The Fades, a pulsating and brutal fantasy-drama that actually won a BAFTA (let’s just ignore the cruel axing shall we) or the genuinely addictive In The Flesh, an intense and brooding character drama that just happened to centre on zombies.
Always brilliant and always unexpected, BBC Three commissioned brave and daring programming like the brilliant American cult TV show Orphan Black and the inventive, hilarious Some Girls that created a genuine connection with both audience and critics alike.
The channel was fast becoming the breeding ground for fresh new comedic talent; stars like Russell Howard, Matt Lucas, James Corden and (unfortunately) Russell Kane all got their ‘big break’ through the channel’s programming.
Even Gavin And Stacey, one of the 21st century’s best-beloved comedy darlings, was given its break on BBC Three. Torchwood, the dark and adult cousin to stalwart Doctor Who found a home on BBC Three before moving to BBC One for its third season. Jack Whitehall’s devilishly naughty Bad Education has just been commissioned for a remake in America. Hell, even Taylor Lautner – Taylor frickin’ Twilight Lautner – has agreed to star in the second season of the channel’s Cuckoo.
In an age where society has sought to single out youth for all of our problems – drink, drugs, crime, corruption, Jeremy Kyle – BBC Three was one of the rare outlets where programmes were made for precisely these type of people; to celebrate them and their tastes. Because, let’s face it, the youth are always at the forefront of television. They adapt to new ways of engaging with the media and are always the most sought after audience by TV channels. I mean, it is highly unlikely that a 40 year old male first engaged with a TV show about a meth-cooking high school teacher that has now arguably become society’s biggest entertainment obsession since Friends.
For all of our ingenuity though, it seems that we’re being punished by the BBC. Sure, with the advent of Netflix and Amazon Prime (Lovefilm) it’s now a steadfast trend to soak in TV all at once in one long sitting but by effectively exiling BBC Three and its services to the iPlayer and the iPlayer only, there’s a real danger that the programming on offer will decline through the vastly decreased budget.
Hall reckons that this move will save the BBC £50 million, with £30 million of this going straight back into funding original drama on the BBC. By this, of course, he means it will go straight to Top Gear and a police drama, instead of funding genuinely boundary-pushing, genre defining television… and Doctor Who.
The thought process behind the move is, somewhat understandable – save money, create online BBC TV revolution – but the results will probably be less then satisfactory. And it will effectively mean the death of young adult-focused programming on the TV. TV schedules are filled to bursting with talent shows and cliche-ridden TV dramas aimed at audiences 20 years older and typically less ‘active’ in their viewing of these texts.
This means an entire generation will be cut off when really – as the next generation who will inherit the entertainment industry in about 10 years – we should be catered for and targeted, if for nothing but the purpose that we can then similarly make brilliantly brave television when we grow up.
This is a dire day for television and the only course of action that is abundantly clear is, of course, to veto this move on BBC Three and target BBC Four and combine its programming (typically more ‘high brow’ and ‘intellectually numbing’) with that of BBC Two, two channels combined equals two times better the output: Top Gear, quirky comedy and Swedish crime drama all in one place. What’s not to love?
If this doesn’t work then maybe – if the TV gods are smiling down on us – this move won’t damage the output of BBC Three too much. It could lose some terrible reality shows but, in reality, those are cheaper to produce and easier to market than, say, a daring and dark drama like In The Flesh.
A dark day for television indeed.
Here is a petition link you can sign to ‘Save BBC Three’.
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