The two men who are bidding to buy BBC3 have said they are prepared to not make a penny from acquiring the channel.
Speaking at a breakfast today, Jimmy Mulville and Jon Thoday said that their main interest was protecting BBC3 as a linear broadcaster and would be happy if it were set up along similar lines to Channel 4 and didn’t reap them any personal gain.
“If there is no other way of doing it we would put [BBC3] into a statutory corporation, very much like Channel 4,” said Mulville (below) who has joined forced with Thoday, the managing director of talent agency and producers Avalon, to bid for the channel.
“So all the profits would go back into the channel, back into the sector, into training, into encouraging people from diverse backgrounds in this industry.”
Mulville’s remarks were a clear riposte to critics such as the comedians Stewart Lee and Bob Mortimer who have attacked their bid.
Lee, who was once on the books of Avalon, wrote in a Sunday newspaper that “[if] the whole thing is up for grabs… we’ll lose the very idea of public broadcasting to the free-market fundamentalists within a decade”.
Mulville and Thoday chose today’s Broadcasting Press Guild event to outline their plans in greater detail, insisting that it would not be impossible for the BBC to sell the channel and even for them to keep the name BBC3.
Added Thoday (below): “We are in the business of producing television shows. Neither of us wishes to own a channel. We are doing this because we seriously believe the BBC is making a mistake.”
The pair criticised the BBC’s decision to move the channel online insisting that it was a “scandal” that would disenfranchise young viewers and would result in a BBC that was “more middle-aged, more middle-class and more white”.
Said Mulville: “If BBC3 goes online…the BBC television nest will lose you when you are 13 or 14 and you come off the back of CBBC and they won’t be giving you anything you like until you are watching people baking cakes when you are in your late 30s or early 40s.”
He added that many people within the BBC privately concede that the loss of BBC3 is a political decision which will be regretted and said the decision to move the channel online is patronising.
Added Mulville: “It’s a very middle-aged view of young people. Obviously someone at the BBC spotted one of their sons watching television on a computer and said: ‘young people tend to watch online’. It’s nonsense.
“We have talked to people who have run successful online channels. For example Vice have done a deal with A+E, a network. Why? Because they want their television on a linear television screen.”
The pair added that the BBC has taken the decision to axe a youth channel because it would be politically more expedient than axing a service like BBC4. “They think that nobody cares and that BBC 4 is the channel that MPs watch and people who will decide the next charter,” said Mulville.
They added that the sale of a 49.9% stake in BBC America to the network AMC last year was a precedent for a possible sale of BBC3.
“The BBC does these kind of deals all the time,” said Thoday.
The BBC management’s bid to move BBC3 is currently being considered by the BBC Trust which is expected to deliver an interim decision as early as next month.
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.