BBC’s Cohen: “BBC3 bid does not stack up”

cohenBBC director of television Danny Cohen has openly rejected Avalon Entertainment and Hat Trick Productions’ BBC3 potential rescue bid, arguing that the £100 million (€136m) takeover plan “does not stack up”.

Cohen has written to Jon Thoday and Jimmy Mulville to set out the corporation’s interpretation of the bid, which was formally submitted to the BBC Trust last week

Cohen said: “We cannot sell you the BBC brand name, the EPG slot or the vast majority of rights to programmes. These are the key assets.”

Given that, he said it was “not clear” what the producers would be buying for their £100 million, adding that it “may be something we will need to respectfully agree to disagree on”.

He said: “It is very unclear what value you would be getting, or why this purchase would make sense for the BBC or yourselves.”

He added that a commercialised and independently operated channel would breach the corporation’s charter and would be “extremely unlikely” to meet criteria set out in BBC fair trading guidelines.

Cohen said the BBC3 brand is not for sale and the corporation is not willing to “risk invalidating the BBC trademark by splitting it”. On the EPG issues, he said BBC3’s slots on Freeview and cable are not within its gift, and that the former is granted because of the channel’s public service remit.

“We are therefore not able to sell you a coherent distribution plan and your proposed channel would not have the prominence in the EPG which is so important to success,” Cohen stressed.

The BBC Trust received Avalon and Hat Trick’s proposals last month and have asked the executive to assess the plans. Cohen will help lead this response.

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