Hundreds of celebrities including Harry Potter and Game of Thrones stars have implored the BBC not to swing the axe at youth-centric BBC Three.
Daniel Radcliffe and Lena Headey are among the many big names who have come out of the woodwork to reverse the Corporation’s decision to take BBC Three off the air and move it online – which is slated to take place after Christmas this year.
The open letter to the Chair of the BBC Trust, Rona Fairhead and Tony Hall, the Director-General of the BBC calls on the plans to be halted, fearing ‘endangering the engagement of future generations.’
Co-signatories include fellow Potter and Thrones alumni Imelda Staunton and Rhodri Miles along with Noel Fielding of The Mighty Boosh and Buzzcocks fame plus Olivia Colman and Richard E Grant.
Over 750 other industry bods have added their voices to the growing chorus of disdain at the Beeb’s decision, and they have been joined by several highly acclaimed writers and prominent industry figures including Jimmy McGovern, MD of Hat Trick Productions and author Hanif Kureishi, who have also signed the letter asking for a reprieve.
This is the latest high-profile attempt to get the BBC to keep the channel and postpone plans to replace it with BBC One+1.
A #SaveBBCThree petition containing over quarter of a million signatures was delivered to the offices of the BBC Trust back in February. Campaign organiser Jono Reid told Recombu that shutting down the youth channel was a sure-fire way to alienate future licence fee payers who lacked the means to watch content online.
Reid said: “People are paying for their licence fee, they’re now being asked to make sure they’ve got decent signal or a broadband package in order to access content. Not everyone can afford it.”
BBC Three has been on air for 12 years and has received over £1 billion of funding during its lifetime.
Despite evidence that more young people than ever are using mobile devices and tablets to do their viewing, it seems clear that not everyone is ready for the BBC to take such an unprecedented leap into online-only content, and the withdrawal of funding could be disastrous. The plan, which was originally put forward by BBC Management is currently under consideration by the BBC Trust.
The full text of the letter reads:
Dear Rona Fairhead and Tony Hall,
We, the undersigned, wish to register our dismay at the BBC’s proposals to close BBC3 as a channel available to all and its planned reduction to a service only available online. Disastrously the closure and move online will remove at a stroke a vitally important outlet for new talent and innovative ideas, where some of the most successful and influential names currently working in British television were given their first chance.
BBC3 has cost the licence fee payer over £1 billion over the last 10 years. Closure will write-off this investment, which would be unthinkable in a commercial environment. The BBC management proposes to use this valuable slot as a catch-up channel for BBC One, putting it in direct competition with the world’s best catch-up service, the iPlayer, on which the BBC has also spent millions of pounds.
The BBC has a duty of care to develop new talent and cater to all audiences. Currently, less than 1% of the BBC budget is spent on programming for the 16 – 24 age group. The management is now proposing to reduce this to under 0.6%. To disenfranchise the young viewer and pull back from the funding of new ideas and new talent risks endangering the engagement of future generations with the BBC. The effect of this reduction will probably lead to a similar reduction by commercial broadcasters which no longer need to compete, with the consequence that the audience of the future will no longer include television as one of its major sources of entertainment.
We call upon the BBC to immediately reinstate the funding to the channel and halt its plans for closure. We believe it is vital that the BBC’s future should include more than tokenistic funding for a young, diverse audience and for new talent. We are facing a tipping point for British broadcasting. Either the BBC can continue to cater predominantly for an increasingly elderly audience or it can take the lead and safeguard its position as a beloved and relevant public broadcaster by investing in the talent and the audiences who are the building blocks of the future. Safeguarding the future of BBC3 as it currently exists is the key to this.