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BBC considering bringing BBC Three back as on-air channel

The broadcaster hopes to double BBC Three's budget, and has no plans to axe BBC Four.

Fleabag (BBC Pictures)
Published: Wednesday, 20th May 2020 at 10:57 am

The BBC is considering the reintroduction of BBC Three as a TV channel, four years after it was moved to online exclusively, and has no plans to close BBC Four.


The channel, which targets a younger audience, left linear TV in 2016 to save £30 million, as the BBC said youth audiences were "watching more online".

However, ahead of the BBC's annual plan today, a spokesman for the broadcaster said it was now "considering the case" for BBC Three's return to "linear television".

"We'd be wrong not to back a serve that is doing better than anyone could have ever conceived," the spokesman continued.

Normal People contributed to the 21.8 million requests received by BBC iPlayer last week
Normal People contributed to the 21.8 million requests received by BBC iPlayer last week

The corporation also announced that it plans to double BBC Three's budget, which will mean reductions in other areas as, during the coronavirus crisis, the BBC's income is being reduced by £125 million.

Earlier this year, director general Tony Hall told the House of Commons that the Beeb were looking into diverting more resources into BBC Three "to build the kind of creative content they're delivering".

BBC Three has commissioned a number of the broadcaster's biggest hits in recent years, including Fleabag and Normal People, which contributed to BBC iPlayer recording its biggest viewing figures in history last week.

The channel, which launched in 2003, has also attached its name to hugely popular British comedies, including Gavin & Stacey, This Country and People Just Do Nothing.

Whilst purely online, BBC Three has branched into reality series, with RuPaul's Drag Race UK and Glow Up launching last year.

The BBC also said that it has no plans to close BBC Four at this time, despite widespread rumours of the 20-year-old channel getting the axe following its editor's move to BBC Studios and the need to make budget cuts.

Comment: Taking BBC Three back on-air would reward innovation that’s helped keep the BBC relevant

In its annual plan released today, the BBC said that it is looking into developing BBC Four into "a new global subscription service" and intends for 60 hours of factual programmes to air on the channel this year.

"Arts will continue to be a centrepiece of Four as we carry on showcasing Culture in Quarantine through this period," the broadcaster wrote.

However, the broadcaster has announced that it will be "taking the best of BBC Four's originations" and taking them to BBC Two, to give the programmes "a bigger shop window".


Prior to the BBC's annual plan, a petition calling for BBC Four to be saved had attracted over 58,000 signatures so far.

Check out what’s on BBC Three and other channels using our TV Guide.


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