The two men bidding to buy BBC3 for £100m insist that their audacious 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 last week.
“That was an astonishing thing to say,” Thoday told the Guardian 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.’”
The two men announced their plan to buy the rights to all existing BBC3 programmes and contracts and keep the channel recognisable, last week.
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.
Thoday added that the Corporation needs to listen because BBC3’s proposed move online is doomed to failure.
“There’s a reason why Netflix hired Kevin Spacey. To make online work, you have to have massive stars. That is not a way to launch programmes with people you haven’t heard of. Young viewers tend to like things that are really well-made, and really well-made things cost money, and have to be launched. And no one has yet launched a successful show that I can think of, with new talent, online. It’s just not been done.”
The pair reveal that the BBC Trust – the regulatory body that would decide on the proposed purchase – has already assured them that privatisation is not allowed under the BBC’s charter. But Thoday and Mulville insist that their lawyers do not believe this is the case.
They also address other key stumbling blocks which have been identified since the bid was made public. They insist that they would negotiate a different slot on the Electronic Programme Guide for the new channel while adding that their purchase would not stop the Corporation launching BBC3 online.
However, in the interview neither Thoday nor Mulville directly address the largest problem faced by their plans: the BBC’s insistence that the channel is “not for sale”.
The pair may also face a potential backlash over their proposals from at least one quarter – comedian Bob Mortimer.
Mortimer, who oversaw a series of online BBC comedy shorts last year, tweeted:
@mediaguardian The process of undermining an organisation for your own financial gain is called 'Oxbridge Creep' How apt— bob mortimer (@RealBobMortimer) January 26, 2015
@mediaguardian shame on you for being complicit in this dangerous farce The BBC belongs to us— bob mortimer (@RealBobMortimer) January 26, 2015