Children’s channel CBBC will also increase by an hour a night and £30 million of cash would be injected into new drama on BBC One.
In an email to BBC staff, BBC director-general, Tony Hall said that while the broadcast channel as we know it would cease to exists, BBC Three would continue as a new online-only venture, funded partially by the additional £20 million.
Hall said: “We should close BBC Three as a broadcast or linear channel and ask Danny [Cohen, Director of BBC Television] and his team to reinvent it as a channel online and on the iPlayer.
“I believe it’s the right thing to do: young audiences – the BBC Three audience – are the most mobile and ready to move to an online world. 25 per cent of viewing by 16-24 year olds is to catch-up or other screens and over the next few years we expect that to reach 40 per cent.”
Danny Cohen confirmed that the BBC plans to shut down the BBC Three broadcast channel in autumn 2015.
Cohen added that programmes would be commissioned and shot for the web, as opposed to traditional broadcast TV. In the age of Vice and YouTube, Cohen argues that the BBC’s approach to factual youth programming could see formats shortened to 40 or 45 minute bursts instead of longer 60 minute shows.
While moving BBC Three online could give BBC iPlayer a shot in the arm, by autumn 2015 not every rural broadband project under the BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) umbrella will have been finished.
BDUK should provide every home in the UK with a broadband connection guaranteeing speeds of at least 2Mbps. In order for BBC iPlayer to work, viewers need a connection providing at least 2Mbps of sustained bandwidth for standard definition content. Even then, BDUK might not be enough for everyone living in the margins.
BBC Three is currently available to 96 per cent of the UK’s population. Launching before every BDUK project is finished could see a number of licence fee payers left in the dark.
Before this decision is finalised, the BBC Trust will have to approve the plans.
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