BBC3 sale would encourage privatisation and ‘turn it into Dave’ says #SaveBBC3 campaigner

Jono Read, who has assembled nearly 270,000 signatures against BBC3's move online, does not want independent production companies Avalon and Hat Trick to buy the channel

Jono Read, the leading activist campaigning to save BBC3, says plans by production companies Avalon and Hat Trick to buy it could be disastrous for the whole BBC.

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Read, who started the Change.org petition which has so far amassed 268,639 signatures, told RadioTimes.com that the bid would not benefit viewers if it succeeded.

“I cannot see it being the same channel in private hands,” he said. “It wouldn’t have the BBC name or identity and it sounds more like a copy of [UKTV comedy channel] Dave rather than the BBC3 we are fighting to save.

“It would also send out a dangerous message and send out the wrong signal – starting the BBC down the road to privatisation. After this, what else could the BBC sell off if it is allowed to sell BBC3?”

Read, who works in digital marketing at the university of East Anglia, has been a passionate BBC3 fan since the channel was born from the digital channel BBC Choice in 2003.

Now aged 26, he cited comedians Russell Howard and the comedy Gavin and Stacey as among his favourite BBC3 talents.

“The BBC’s argument seems to be hypocritical. On the one hand they are arguing that young people are all about consuming things online – and yet as part of the proposals they are wanting to launch BBC1+1 and extend the hours of CBBC. So clearly channels work there. It seems like a smokescreen for appeasing the BBC’s critics and saving money at the expense of young people.”

Read says the #SaveBBC3 campaign is now focusing on encouraging people to contribute to the Public Value Test inviting submissions from viewers and other interested parties over the proposed closure. He says he will hand over his petition to the BBC Trust in around three weeks time.

After that, physical demonstrations against the proposed closure are likely.

“Our views will be heard – we intend to make a noise,” he said, citing the successful campaign against the closure of 6 Music in 2010 when the Trust overruled plans to axe the radio station.

Last week the two men bidding to buy BBC3 for £100m insisted that their proposal is a serious one.

Jon Thoday, the managing director of independent producers and talent company Avalon, and Jim Mulville, the boss of production house Hat Trick, have come out fighting after the bid was dismissed as a “publicity stunt” by the BBC head of communications.

“That was an astonishing thing to say,” Thoday said of the response to the letter he and Mulville sent to the BBC Trust asking to open negotiations on a proposal which would keep BBC3 as a broadcast television channel. 

“We are not here to waste our time,” added Thoday. “We’ve got businesses to run.”

Mulville said: “Our bid is not an antagonistic move – it’s really not. It’s us trying to say to the BBC: ‘There is another way.’”

A spokesman for the bidders decline to comment on Read’s remarks.

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A BBC spokesman said: BBC Three 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.”