BBC3’s move online “in and of itself is good” claims BBC Trust chair

New BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead appears to back the closure of the digital channel, but the Trust has yet to hear detailed proposals from the BBC

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The BBC Trust’s new Chair Rona Fairhead has said that BBC3’s move online is “in and of itself good”, although the Trust has yet to hear detailed proposals about how the channel’s closure and move online will be accomplished.

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The BBC first announced plans to close BBC3 as a broadcast channel and move it online in March. The BBC Trust said they would carry out a public consultation on the matter, but new Chair Rona Fairhead appeared to back the move during her appearance before a culture, media and sport select committee.

“The idea of moving BBC3 and making it online in and of itself is good,” Fairhead told MPs. “But I think that challenging the BBC executive and the production teams about what works well online – because it is a different genre – is important.”

Fairhead said that the BBC Trust was yet to carry out a review, or ‘Public Value Test’, of the BBC’s plans for the channel, but would publish the report when that process had been completed.

BBC Trustee David Liddiment told MPs that the Trust had received no detailed proposal from the BBC, adding: “No one is going to do a back door deal around BBC3.”

BBC Trust chair Fairhead said that understanding how viewers want to engage online was important for the BBC. “It’s a really difficult challenge,” she said. “If you look at the statistics… that group of the public are watching less, and they are certainly watching very differently. Typically they watch on the go through devices they have.”

The move to close BBC3 has been met with strong opposition by some within the industry, including former BBC3 controller Zai Bennett. “I thought it was a pretty perverse, odd decision,” he said at this year’s Edinburgh International Television Festival.

“The BBC is amazing, BBC3 is a stunning channel, it’s completely unique in the ecology of TV and what it does in original British comedy and factual programming, current affairs and documentary,” he continued. “I think TV and online have a symbiotic relationship, it’s not one or the other.”

The Petition to Save BBC3 Facebook page currently has 63,229 likes, and the BBC Trust is committed to gathering the public’s views as part of its Public Value Test.

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“Any major changes to existing BBC services require approval from the Trust,” a BBC Trust statement explained. “In this case, we expect to conduct a public value test, including a public consultation, so licence fee payers will have the opportunity to have their say in the process.”

>> Find out more: How the fate of BBC3 will be determined