A modestly sized but passionate group of around 50 protestors gathered outside the BBC’s New Broadcasting House building today to voice their objections to the proposed move of BBC3 online.
The crowd sang songs and marched from the building to the BBC Trust’s headquarters nearby to hand over a petition of more than 270,000 signatures to Trust head of business strategy Jon Cowdock.
Labour MP John McDonnell were among those objecting to plans by the BBC executive to close BBC3 as a broadcast channel and shift the savings into other areas of the Corporation, with a £30m earmarked for BBC1 drama.
The politician told the crowd that the volume of signatures would add to the pressure on the BBC Trust to block the proposals from Director-General Tony Hall and the BBC executive.
“This is an extremely popular channel, it is extremely innovative,” said McDonnell. “The BBC is cutting off its nose to spite its face with this proposal. The BBC has never closed down a channel before and we are asking them to think again. The BBC is growing the future audience with BBC3 and the thinking seems so short term.”
He told RadioTimes.com: “This sends a message to the top. The leadership of the BBC cannot ignore this.”
Also joining the rally was protest singer One Man and his Beard – AKA Manchester musician David Gorton – who performed his own especially composed song “Save BBC3.”
Gorton said he was furious about the closure and was a fan of BBC3 comedies such as Little Britain and Cuckoo.
After the protest, Save BBC3 campaigner Jono Read led a march to the BBC’s Trust headquarters where the Change.Org petition was handed over (see picture).
He told RadioTimes.com he believed the protest could effect real change.
“We don’t think you can ignore the voices of this many people,” he said. “We would like the Trust to engage more with young people over this. We hope that it will keep to its word and consider the objections properly.”
Speaking outside the BBC Trust’s HQ, Cowdock revealed that more than 20,000 people had submitted their comments to its ongoing Public Value Test which is taking the views of interested parties into the closure.
Cowdock told RadioTimes.com that the Trust’s review of the proposals would examine them thoroughly.
“It is not a fait-accompli,” he said. “We will take a view based on the evidence. People who have signed this have not wasted their time. This is an important contribution.”
The BBC executive responded to the protest with the following statement: “With the licence fee frozen we’ve had to make some difficult choices in order to save £800m a year, including moving BBC Three online. There is no easy solution and we have chosen to make a bold move to reinvent the service rather than simply having to take money out of all our programmes across the board.”