BBC Three as we know it is set to shut down for good this autumn. That hasn’t stopped over a quarter of a million people signing a petition calling on the corporation to reverse that decision.
Today, the #SaveBBCThree group staged a protest outside BBC Broadcasting House before wheeling around to the BBC Trust Unit on Great Portland Street to hand over a box stuffed with signatures.
The 60 (by our count) of the 208 Facebook Confirmed™ attendees that showed up were a real mix of young and old, including schoolkids that appeared desperate to save Family Guy – currently shown on BBC Three but not available on iPlayer, for rights reasons.
Tia, 14 said: “Family Guy isn’t just for 16-24 year olds. My dad’s like 50 and he watches it. In 20 years time, if BBC Three was still a channel I would watch it. I’m sure younger people would still watch it.”
“I would watch it,” 16 year old Alisha chipped. “We all would still watch it.”
At the other end of the age spectrum was a bearded chap called David Beethoven – a friendly Prestonian perhaps better known by his stage name One Man and His Beard.
The guitar-wielding Beethoven embiggened the hearts of protesters by blasting out ‘Keep BBC Three on TV’ on a portable busking amp.
He is actually something of an old hand at this sort of thing, having performed at the unofficial Save 6Music festival, where he played an equally fit-for-purpose tune, ‘We’ve Gotta Save 6Music’.
When asked how he felt about the plans to kick BBC Three off the air and replace it with a timeshift channel, Beethoven didn’t mince his words: “Totally ridiculous,” he replied. “It’s got the best new comedy, best new music festival coverage and loads of great documentaries as well. More awards than Channel 4 and E4 in their first ten years.”
Beethoven isn’t confident that shifting BBC Three content online will save the channel either. “It’ll just die,” he added. “It’ll die because people won’t have the listings, they won’t know what’s on, ‘cos people, they like to see what’s on, on Freeview. Not everybody has a great Internet service, it cuts out when you’re watching something.”
And with that he was away, leading another singalong of ‘Keep BBC Three on TV’ to the bemusement of some unhappy-looking security staff.
The mastermind of the protest is Jono Read, a 26-year old marketer from Holt, Norfolk who started the Save BBC Three petition on Change.org. Read works for the University of East Anglia and lives in a part of the world where Internet services are so poor that BBC iPlayer doesn’t work. This means that when BBC Three gets shoved off the airwaves later this autumn, Read won’t be able to watch it.
Read said: “I live in a rural area, I live in north Norfolk. I have a lot of friends who still can’t get 3G or 4G or fast broadband. I spoke to the Director General [Tony Hall] himself and said ideally, they don’t want to be doing it now they want to be doing it in a couple of years time when perhaps things are a bit better.”
While the government’s superfast broadband project is supposed to deliver speeds of at least 24Mbps to most people by 2017, there will be many people like Read who are stuck in an offline ghetto. And even if they can get superfast broadband, some may not be able to afford it?
“There’s also the question of if we’re going to be watching BBC Three online, are we going to be consuming a lot more bandwidth, are we going to have to look at better broadband packages?” Read added. “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.”
MPs have been calling for non-payment of the licence fee to be decriminalised, while other voices are calling for the fee to be scrapped altogether. If ministerial knives are out for the BBC, Read thinks that alienating a younger audience is no way to go about saving it. “They are future licence fee payers at the end of the day,” Read said.
Do you think BBC Three should be saved? Should the BBC wait until everyone can get a broadband service capable of supporting iPlayer? Should the decision be postponed until 2017? Let us know in the comments.