The linear demise of BBC Three: no logic, no sense

The linear demise of BBC Three: no logic, no sense

The outcome of moving BBC Three online could point a finger to the future – or serve as a stark warning, writes Raymond Snoddy.

Rona Fairhead, chairman of the BBC Trust, has admitted that the decision to close BBC Three as a broadcast channel was a finely balanced one.

She told the autumn conference of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, however, that the deciding factor, apart from cost, was the way viewing patterns were changing among the target 16 to 34 year-old audience.

The closure will come effectively at the end of January, although for a further month there will be something called “a promotional transitional channel” until the transmitters are finally switched off.

It will be a BBC landmark of sorts. Crazy government-imposed late night services have died naturally in the past and satellite channels can come and go but this is the first time in the Corporation’s history that a national free-to-air channel has been closed against the wishes of many of its viewers.

The decision was taken despite more than 300,000 people signing an online petition to save the channel, opponents who included senior figures from the creative and production communities.

In its death sentence announcement the Trust acknowledged the strong public opposition to the closure but then said something strange and interesting. It said the proposal had “intuitive force”.

Not logic, not sense, not facts; but intuitive force.

It’s a dangerous thing taking irreversible decisions through the power of intuitive force.

This is presumably an assumption based on the concept that the young are watching less television on the traditional screen and deserting to the internet – the shape of the future.

This is true of course. Up to a point.

By chance last week Thinkbox, the body that promotes and carries out research on commercial television, published some new work.

The findings are not earth-shatteringly new or surprising but it is necessary to combat on a daily basis the wilder futuristic fantasies on the state of television.

Between 1995 and 2014 television revenues have continued to grow despite the rise of online and television’s market share has remained constant across 20 years with newspapers the big losers.

It’s when you get down to the detail that it gets interesting and relevant to the fate and likely prospects for an online, diminished BBC Three.

Thinkbox has a lovely slide charting total UK video consumption across all platforms and devices.

For all individuals 81 per cent of viewing is to live TV and the catch-up and VOD offerings of the broadcasters. By way of comparison YouTube accounts for 3.5 per cent, other online video 4.5 per cent, with porn on 4.6 per cent and DVDs 3.8 per cent.

With the 16-24s – the people who are supposed not to watch television at all – the television share is still 65 per cent.

The Thinkbox research does not specifically address the older BBC Three demographic but intuitively the 25-34 year-old cohort is surely likely to watch more television than their younger brethren.

Let’s suck our thumb and say intuitively that 70 per cent would probably be about right. That’s one hell of an potential audience share to be turning your back on.

… read on at

Originally posted by Raymond Snoddy at Mediatel Newsline
2nd December 2015