The BBC’s proposal to close BBC3 as a broadcast channel took a knock today with the publication of a review by the BBC Trust which showed that the youth-oriented station was not currently working as an “online destination".
The Trust, which will ultimately decide whether or not BBC3 is moved online, reported that the channel succeeded in reflecting and exploring the diversity of UK society and was “highly valued” by a small but passionate core of mainly younger viewers.
In addition, it was shown to appeal to the key 16-34 age range at a time when the average age of BBC1 viewers has grown to 59 from 56 in 2010/11, while the average age of people watching BBC2 had increased from 58 to 60.
The BBC Trust also today warned that BBC3 had not yet established itself as an online presence barely a year before the TV channel is due to go internet-only, in October next year.
The report said: “BBC3 has yet to establish itself as an online destination, with the Trust’s research showing that awareness of any digital innovation or experimentation by BBC3 online, beyond [the BBC’s] iPlayer, was low.”
Despite some criticism – many of the 5,000 viewers surveyed by the Trust found that BBC3 did not cover culture other than music well enough, for example – the Trust praised BBC3’s comedy shows for delivering “experimental” programming for young people, citing the examples of Jack Whitehall's Bad Education and the Russell Tovey comedy Him & Her.
The report also found that the channel “covered areas such as ethnicity, sexuality, social grade and different youth tribes in a natural and authentic way”.
“In comparison to BBC1 and BBC2, the representation of diversity on BBC3 was not perceived as contrived or tokenistic, but rather occurring more naturally across programming”.
Speaking after delivering the report, David Liddiment, the former ITV programmes boss and the BBC Trustee who jointly led the review, refused to comment on the proposed closure of BBC3, insisting that the Trust had yet to receive the BBC’s management proposals.
However he did say that general “challenges” existed around ageing audiences which was “an issue that the BBC needs to address and is addressing”.
“In terms of all audiences, there are clearly challenges around young people,” Liddiment said. “As you get older you watch more telly. Yong people tend to do more things. But there is clearly an issue here which needs to be addressed.”
On BBC3’s failure to establish itself online he said: “We are still largely in a world where people watch television on the telly”.