The BBC Trust is due to make its preliminary decision on the fate of BBC3 next week, sources have told RadioTimes.com.
And with the Trust now almost certain to make its views known in a matter of days, campaigners have called on those wishing to save the channel to act quickly.
Jon Thoday the managing director of independent producers and talent company Avalon, and Jimmy Mulville, the boss of production house Hat Trick, told RadioTimes.com in a joint statement today that time is running out to save the channel.
The pair, who are leading a campaign to keep BBC3 as a television channel, said: “We must act fast to save BBC3. £1bn of licence-payers money has been spent turning BBC3 into a much-loved television station.
“BBC3 has launched the careers of some of our brightest and best comedy talent, while delighting a young and diverse audience. Even in the digital age a television channel remains the most economic way to launch new content and talent while reaching the widest possible audience.
“To move BBC3 to online-only flies in the face of widely-held industry opinion and practice. Even digital media groups are now looking to television channels as part of their growth strategy.”
After the Trust’s so-called “interim adjudication” is published, the regulator will oversee a further 28-day consultation before a final decision is made in late summer. If approved, BBC3 will close as a broadcast channel in January next year.
The interim decision had been delayed because the BBC Trust needed more time to conduct a public value test by canvassing the views of viewers and industry bodies which it has now completed. However it is now clear that this decision will not be subject to any more delays.
A senior BBC executive has told RadioTimes.com that the channel’s closure is likely to be waived through by the Trust but that the regulator may insist that the channel’s slated online budget is increased.
According to the top-level source, a number of BBC programme-makers and independent producers hope that the Trust will only give the proposed move online the go-ahead if the programming budget is increased from the BBC’s current proposed figure of £30m a year to a figure approaching its current spend, which currently stands at £55m.
However this is unlikely to appease campaigners whose bid to keep the channel on the airwaves received a boost earlier this month when a host of top actors and TV talent hand over an open letter to the BBC Trust demanding that BBC3 is kept as a broadcast channel.
Poldark star Aidan Turner and scores of other actors including Broadchurch actress Olivia Colman and Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe signed the letter which was delivered to BBC bosses.
Other signatories included Russell Howard, Jack Whitehall, Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Greg Davies, Noel Fielding, Imelda Staunton, James Nesbitt and Maxine Peake.
Writers Jimmy McGovern, Andrew Davies, Alan Bleasdale, William Boyd and Hanif Kureishi also signed the letter.