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Popularity of broadband may be behind closure of BBC3 channel
Wednesday 05 March 2014 18:14:19 by Andrew Ferguson

The idea of closing one of the main BBC TV channels may have been seen as a step too far a short while ago, but it appears that the BBC is to move the BBC3 off of Freeview, satellite and cable platforms to make it only available via the BBC iPlayer which for those who have yet to embrace OTT TV is as good as a closure. Confirmation via a BBC statement is expected Thursday 6th March.

The shift of BBC3 to an online only channel is part of the savings that are being explored to create a target of £100m of savings by 2016. The £85m that is the BBC3 budget currently it will be another lump of cash towards the target, though since it will still be on air, the savings will only be a fraction of the channels budget.

The debate over the effect on the commissioning of new shows for the channel will run on and on and while not every show on the channel is to everyone's taste the channel has acted as the test bed and proving ground for a good number of comedy and drama shows. There is also the question mark about those shows that currently are transmitted on BBC3 but not available on iPlayer due to rights holder restrictions.

While many decry the state of broadband in the United Kingdom it appears that the BBC believes that enough people can access BBC iPlayer to justify keeping the channel alive, or an alternative view is that once it vanishes from TV channel listings that viewing figures will plummet and a full closure can be justified.

The move is intended to help the BBC meet targets for £100m savings by 2016 and while moving the channel to online only will not save all of the £85m that the TV guide viewing figures will drop to the extent that viewing figures plummet and the channel closed totally.

The gradual move of TV channels from satellite and other transmission media has been predicted previously but the expectation was that it would be the smaller niche channels that would be the first to move.

The current position around the TV Licence Fee is that you do not need one so long as you do not watch a TV show at the same time it is being transmitted on Freeview, satellite and cable. If BBC3 moves to online only then there will be increasing pressure to revamp the terms of the licence to cover online viewing even when outside the transmission window.

The current broadband improvements across the UK are also partly to blame for this sort of thing, since the 2015-2017 funding is from the Licence Fee and the original BDUK projects obtained a large chunk of their money via the surplus left over from the Digital Switchover Fund.


Posted by farrina over 3 years ago
Paragraph six - "nice" channels or did you mean "niche" ?
Posted by steve27 over 3 years ago
what about the folk who have no broadband?
Posted by pcoventry76 over 3 years ago
They are moving towards licencing the Iplayer I am sure of it and this is the first step.

They are welcome to put it all online and lock it down. i still won't pay for a licence. anything and everything is available in other places minutesafter it's been broadcast anyway.
Posted by burble over 3 years ago
BBC3 has only been broadcasting in HD for a few months, I wonder how long the contract with Arqiva is?
With only a 1mb broadband connection, downloading programmes is a complete pain.
Posted by Colin_London over 3 years ago
burble - i'm sure the HD capacity can be used for BBC Four HD to give it national coverage. BBC Threes SD capacity can be used for BBC One+1 sharing with CBBC.
Posted by Spud2003 over 3 years ago

>They are moving towards licencing the Iplayer...

Tony Hall has recently said that he wants the licence fee to cover the iPlayer, this is designed to support his argument. The BBC are entirely cynical when it comes to the licence fee and will use every trick in the book to keep it in place.
Posted by rayvon over 3 years ago
Nice to see the BBC considering licence fee payers who DON'T access the internet.As already mentioned when you have a very slow internet connection any downloading is like watching paint dry
Posted by pcoventry76 over 3 years ago
something like Tivo would help with that. I see your point though Rayvon.

@Spud- I read this on mail on line. i worry for people like Russell Howard, I hope they move him his work is genius and it's his only platform apart from live gigs.
Posted by asjonesmcguire over 3 years ago
a) Are they going to speak nicely to the ISPs and convince them to not count iPlayer traffic as part of download allowances?

b) Are they going to use the money they save with not "broadcasting" BBC Three, to upgrade their streaming infrastructure?
Posted by broadband66 over 3 years ago
"move the BBC3 off of Freeview"

Please, let's not go down the route of the Americans with their dodgy English!
Posted by Spectre_01 over 3 years ago
I'm glad BBC3 is going, BBC4 should join it imo. Hardly ever watched those channels or the BBC in general to be perfectly honest.
The TV license should be scrapped and the BBC should be forced to find alternate funding, either as a pay-for-view encrypted channel or though advertising revenue.

I would go as far as to say that if the BBC was more like ITV or C4 then the Savile abuse scandals would not have been put up with, anything that smears the image of a company that is funded in by customers that actually have a choice tends to get dealt with very quickly...
Posted by Spectre_01 over 3 years ago
...As it is the BBC has lived happily with a captive audience that have never had a choice other then to be harassed and criminalized should they refuse to pay or even have a TV not used for live TV.

Now people are starting to get a legal choice through internet TV they are voting with their wallets.
Posted by Spud2003 over 3 years ago
Sorry Spectre but there is an important place for public service broadcasting. Good news coverage, political analysis, educational programming benefit society at large. As for entertainment output on the BBC I don't care what happens to it, it could be provided by other channels funded by subscription or ad revenue. ...
Posted by Spud2003 over 3 years ago
...I agree with you that it is a disgrace that people are being criminalised by the licence fee(huge numbers of cases clog up the court system). Funding should really be drawn from general taxation which would be fairer on the poor and save (1.55 billion over 15 years) in collection fees.
Posted by Spectre_01 over 3 years ago
"Sorry Spectre but there is an important place for public service broadcasting. Good news coverage, political analysis, educational programming benefit society at large."

I totally agree, but keep in mind the BBC has proven to be heavily bias over the years and in breach of its public contract.
Posted by csimon over 3 years ago
@Spud2003: The BBC's remit is to "inform, educate & entertain".

I am a big supporter of the BBC,I think the non-commercial nature enables the best in all categories.BBC is renowned throughout the world.Sky,for example,isn't.However,I think it's a big mistake to axe Three like this & I wonder if it was done deliberately to provoke outcry.For starters,move all regional programming to regular slots on One and get rid of all Two regions,that would save more carriage costs than part of Three.
Posted by michaels_perry over 3 years ago
It has been shown that funding by subscription is far more expensive to operate than the TV Licence Fee. Sky spend far more not only on collecting the money but have to spend a lot to prevent unauthorised viewing. So none of that money goes into programme making.
Dissemination via broadband may be fine for some, but for others with slow broadband it is a serious problem. High contention in evenings can make things far worse.
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