The BBC Trust has published its provisional conclusions on a variety of matters including shifting BBC Three to be an online only TV channel.
"But the Trust has identified some clear concerns about the short-term impact of this change, given the projected loss of reach to younger and other under-served television viewers (particularly those who do not watch other BBC TV services or do not have reliable broadband) and the potential impact on the BBC’s ability to try out new ideas and develop new talent.
The Trust has concluded that it should be possible to address these concerns by imposing some conditions, to require:
- A more carefully managed transition from broadcast TV to an online service, to raise awareness of the change. The Trust will consider whether this should include a period of running both services in parallel.
- Clearer commitments to programmes on BBC One and/or BBC Two that appeal to a younger audience, including the use of those channels to continue broadcasting long-form BBC Three programmes.
- A commitment to a space on broadcast television (not just on BBC Three online) where risks can be taken with new talent and new ideas of the sort that BBC Three has been successful in developing.
The move from broadcast to online only for BBC Three is meant to save £30m a year and we suspect that if the move is successful in terms of meeting savings target and a large chunk of the audience is not lost then it may spur more BBC content to become online only and even other TV channels to look at broadband based delivery.
The concerns over broadband speeds are real, but it should be remembered that FreeView coverage is not universal. The broadband situation is worst in Northern Ireland (14.2% < 5 Mbps), Scotland (7.5% < 5 Mbps) and Wales (9.5% < 5 Mbps), a speed of 5 Mbps should be enough for an iPlayer HD stream and still be able to do other web browsing, tweeting etc, coverage at speeds of 2 Mbps which is what you need for an iPlayer SD stream is obviously better. As the BDUK projects are adding more coverage every week by the time BBC Three moves online coverage at speeds suitable should be even better.