BBC3 could be saved by joint buyout bid from makers of Have I Got News for You and Man Down

Leading independent production companies Hat Trick and Avalon are keen to submit a proposal that could increase the channel's budget to £100 million

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BBC3 could be saved as a broadcast channel by leading programme-makers Hat Trick and Avalon.

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The production companies have written to the BBC Trust asking to open negotiations on a proposal which would keep it as a broadcast television channel. Under current BBC plans, BBC3 will become online only.

According to bid insiders, the proposed new channel would not carry the BBC name but the plan is to buy the rights to all existing BBC3 programmes and contracts and keep the channel recognisable.

“I suspect it would be called something like Three,” said the insider, who added that the letter to the Trust had come from Avalon boss Jon Thoday and Hat Trick’s Jimmy Mulville.

“But it would be BBC3 as we know it and they would demand a decent place on the EPG. The companies are serious about this – they have been working it out for months now and they would at least like the BBC to talk about it in the interests of licence fee payers.”

A joint statement said that under the new ownership, BBC3 “would continue to broadcast on all digital platforms, all current contracts would be honoured and the channel’s programme budget would be increased from £81m to £100m a year”.

The statement points out that under the BBC’s plans to take the channel online, that budget is to be cut to £30m a year.

“All original commissions would be made by UK companies and the channel would continue to be aimed at a young and ethnically diverse audience,” the statement adds.

The surprise bid comes on the day that the BBC Trust begins the consultation with the public on the proposals to move the channel online.

Hat Trick is the award-winning producer of leading shows such as Have I Got News For You for BBC1 and Some Girls for BBC3. Avalon’s Television division makes shows such as Channel 4 comedy Man Down and Russell Howard’s Good News, which moved from BBC3 to BBC2 last year.

Avalon also operates a talent management division with key names such as Chris Addison, David Baddiel and Rob Delaney on its books.

BBC Trust senior strategy advisor Bronwen Roscoe told RadioTimes.com that the Trust would be responding to the letter “in due course”.

However, in a conference call to journalists she declined to comment on whether a purchase of BBC3 is allowable under the Corporation’s current charter.

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A spokesman for the BBC executive said: “BBC3 is not for sale because it’s not closing. The proposal to move it online is part of a bold move to reinvent the BBC’s offer for young people.”