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.