Comedians in revolt as bosses plot to close £90m-a-year youth channel BBC3


The BBC is facing a revolt from some of its most popular entertainers after announcing that it plans to close BBC3 and convert the youth channel into a wholly online service.

Comedians Jack Whitehall and Russell Kane were among the channel's stars who spoke out against the decision, due to be confirmed by Lord Hall, BBC Director-General, on Thursday.

Closing the channel behind hits including Gavin & Stacey and Little Britain means that shows such as Don't Tell The Bride and Pramface will only be available through iPlayer, rather than Freeview, satellite or cable.

Lord Hall said further cuts are required to allow the BBC to deliver an additional £100 million of savings. It is still only halfway through a £700 million programme of cuts.

Faced with a choice between closing BBC4, the digital arts and culture channel which costs £49 million a year to run and BBC3, with its £85 million expenditure, the BBC's management opted to axe the much-criticised youth channel, which launched in 2003 and is aimed at audiences aged 16-34.

Politicians welcomed the proposal to close BBC3, notorious for provocatively-titled programmes like F*** Off, I’m Ginger, ahead of vital charter renewal negotiations, set to conclude in 2016, which will set the level of the licence fee.

Turning BBC3 into an online-only brand would help "super-charge" viewing on iPlayer, the BBC argued. The BBC wants to extend the licence fee to cover households where people watch on-demand programmes exclusively on mobile and tablet devices.

The channel was behind such hits as 'Gavin & Stacey' The channel was behind such hits as 'Gavin & Stacey' (BBC)
The closure must first be approved by the BBC Trust, led by Lord Patten. A previous BBC management decision to close the 6 Music radio station was reversed by the Trust after a lobbying campaign by listeners.

The BBC’s rivals suggested that the closure proposal could be a ploy designed to generate a popular backlash, thereby demonstrating to politicians the difficulty of closing a service once it is established. Lord Hall ruled out closing a channel last October because "the public feel very strongly about all the BBC services."

Comedians given a platform by BBC3 joined viewer protests, which attracted a #SaveBBC3 Twitter hashtag. Little Britain star Matt Lucas proclaimed the channel to be "the home of new comedy and drama".

Russell Kane, who presents Live At The Electric, said the BBC was disenfranchising younger licence fee payers. He told The World At One: "Everyone who puts in £145 for the licence fee should be entertained. I don’t see why it should just be cut because young people have quieter voices in the democratic process?"

Kane said that moving BBC3 to the iPlayer would reduce viewers and hinder audience engagement when it screens political debates. The channel would lack the "rubber stamp of approval" awarded to other services, he said.

Heydon Prowse, of BBC3's hidden-camera political satire series The Revolution Will Be Televised, is launching a social media campaign, via, to save the channel.

Prowse said: "BBC3 does a better job of the BBC's remit to inform, educate and explain than the £22 million it spends on The Voice. Its shows genuinely cater for a young audience in a non-patronising way. The BBC has enough content for middle-class, middle-aged people."

But the decision was more popular in Westminster, where the BBC’s long-term fate will be decided. John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said: "BBC3's successful programmes could easily have been developed for BBC2. An awful lot of it is repeats or acquired programming."

He added: "There is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the channel is reaching the younger audience it was created to serve. It is better for the BBC to concentrate its output on fewer channels and to make sure they are distinctive and of higher quality."

Lord Hall is expected to set out on Thursday the BBC's future plans to reach younger viewers, if his "favoured option", the closure of BBC3 as a television service, is approved.

'Coming of Age', a sitcom about sixth-form students, ran from 2007 to 2011 'Coming of Age', a sitcom about sixth-form students, ran from 2007 to 2011 (BBC)
He faces questions over the genuine savings that closing the broadcast service will deliver if BBC3 programmes are to continue online – transmission costs account for £31 million a year but the programing budget is £58 million.

BBC sources argue that younger viewers no longer watch programmes according to a linear channel schedule and that axing the BBC3 channel will deliver greater value to licence fee payers. However Lord Hall must demonstrate that all licence fee payers are able to access an online-only channel.

Hopes that a 6 Music-style campaign will influence Lord Patten may be slim. BBC3 has had 10 years to establish itself and received £1 billion of licence fee money. A large chunk of its late evening airtime is devoted to repeats of EastEnders and the animated import Family Guy. Its eight-hour schedule on Thursday features just two new programmes.

BBC3 has already experimented with premiering popular comedies, such as Bad Education, starring Jack Whitehall, on iPlayer to a positive response. The channel recorded a bigger audience among 16-24 year-olds than Channel 4 last year and it has faced persistent accusations that its programming is insufficiently distinctive from its commercial competitors.

Viewing figures for Tuesday night showed that hairdressing competition Hair enjoyed 785,000 viewers at 9pm, with 652,000 viewers tuning into EastEnders immediately after and 599,000 people watching the first of two episodes of Family Guy at 11pm.

BBC3: The best and the worst


Hotter Than My Daughter

Atomic Kitten member Liz McClarnon talks to the mother and daughter separately and asks them how they feel about each other's looks and asks the mother if she feels she is hotter than her daughter.

Public service content: 0/10

Snog Marry Avoid?

Atomic Kitten member Jenny Frost transforms the "fakery obsessed" or "slap addicts" into natural beauties by stripping them of their skimpy clothes and layers of make-up and giving them a makeunder instead of a makeover.

Public Service content: 1/10

Coming Of Age

Crude sitcom about sixth-form students: "DK fancies fat girl Sky, but will his unusual seduction techniques – a mix of chocolate, rap and breakdancing – succeed in getting her into bed, or will he have to resort to wooing her with pies?"

Public Service content: 3/10

F*** Off, I'm Ginger

Sister show to F*** Off, I'm Fat and F*** Off, I'm a Hairy Woman examined the life of a ginger haired person and the persecution they face on a daily basis. Kernel of a serious documentary submerged under coarse, eye-catching title.

Public service content: 4/10


Our War

Bafta-award winning documentary series followed the war in Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of the young soldiers on the front line. Pictures shot by soldiers provided eye-opening glimpse into the reality of failing mission in Helmand.

Public service content: 10/10

Gavin & Stacey

Devised by James Corden and Ruth Jones, romantic sitcom developed from cult favourite to mainstream success after transferring to BBC2 then BBC1. Fulfilled BBC3 mission to identify and launch new young talent.

Public service content: 8/10

Being Human

Supernatural flat-share drama series starring Russell Tovey ran for five series, attracting two million viewers to episodes on TV and iPlayer and won Writers' Guild of Great Britain awards. Became BBC America hit and spawned a US Syfy channel remake.

Public service content: 8/10

Don’t Call Me Crazy

Hard-hitting factual series following a year in the lives of inpatients at a teenage mental health unit averaged 1.65 million viewers per episode across TV and iPlayer. Accused of exploitation by some campaigners but also won praised for unflinching depiction of institutionalised life.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Head of Affiliate Sales for Emerging Markets

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you looking for your next role ...

Brand Engagement Manager - TV

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is your chance to join a gl...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits