This week, the BBC announced that in a cost-saving measure, the corporation is going to do away with BBC3. Apart from the issue of how they explain having BBC1, 2 and 4 but not 3, this raises quite a lot of questions, not least Why? The channel has a strong track record for innovation and for reaching parts of the audience that the other BBC channels are losing out on. It will apparently save nearly £100m a year, which sounds a lot, but when you realise that the BBC spends £30m a year on Formula One racing (to which they don't even have exclusive rights- given they share it with Sky), then the Channel starts to look like a bargain.
Tony Hall, the Director General, argued that the choice was between cutting money for BBC1 Drama like Sherlock or Dr.Who, and cutting the channel. The cuts to the BBC in recent years as a result of the licence fee being frozen have effectively amounted to about one sixth of its budget, so savings had to be made somewhere. The corporation argues that some of the savings from BBC3 will go to expanding the iPlayer's functions and that BBC3 programmes will simply move online. Though this may go some way to catching the same 16-34 audience (29% of whom watch programmes like Bad Education), it simply isn't the same as having a guaranteed channel. And if they do that and that audience doesn't have a TV set at all, just watching catchup online, they won't have to pay for TV licences, which in the end will lose the BBC even more money...
So what has the channel ever done for us? Which programmes started there? 90% of the channel's output is from the UK and EU, with 70% of output being original programming. Some of its programmes have found success there and then been 'bumped up' to BBC2 or BBC1 for a bigger audience. Since starting in 2003, the channel has been responsible for Little Britain, Gavin and Stacey, Being Human, Bad Education, Torchwood, Dr.Who Confidential, The Revolution Will Be Televised, The Mighty Boosh and many more. Though its documentary strands are often no more innovative than those on Channel 4 or 5 these days, it has nonetheless had some success there too with programmes like Our War about Afghanistan. During the Olympics, the channel went over to 24 hour coverage to allow more options for minority sports to be shown; it has also frequently covered music events such as Reading Festival.
But the audience won't be letting it go lightly. There was a big campaign all week on twitter and a petition launched which has quickly gathered over 140,000 signatures. Facebook likes for the campaign to save it have reached 200,000. In an age when commercial channels and repeats of old programmes dominate our TV screens, it seems a great pity to lose a channel which offers something different.