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British TV stars join battle to save BBC3

Some of the biggest names in British TV including Jack Whitehall, Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Daniel Radcliffe, Greg Davies, Noel Fielding, Andy Samberg, Imelda Staunton, Olivia Colman, James Nesbitt, Maxine Peake, Aidan Turner, Sarah Parish, Lena Headey and Richard E Grant have written to the BBC to condemn its decision to move BBC3 online.

They have signed an open letter to the Chair of the BBC Trust Rona Fairhead and Tony Hall, the Director-General of the BBC, calling for the decision to axe the channel as part of a cost-cutting drive to be reversed.

Some of the UK’s most established and critically-acclaimed writers have also signed the letter, along with 750 other senior industry figures. They include Jimmy McGovern, Andrew Davies, Alan Bleasdale, William Boyd and Hanif Kureishi.

Executives including Avalon MD Jon Thoday and Jimmy Mulville, MD of Hat Trick Productions, have also signed the letter. Representatives from every major UK talent agency have also backed the call for BBC3 to be saved.

Although many of the letter’s signatories have worked on BBC3 programmes it has also been signed by dozens of writers and actors whose work is broadcast on the corporation’s flagship channel BBC One.

The list of signatories reads like a who’s who of UK television and film. As well as on-screen and writing talent it also includes producers and directors. Paul Roseby, the CEO and artistic director of the National Youth Theatre and its Chair Dawn Airey have also signed the letter along with the Theatre’s council members.

It has also been signed by Colin Barr, executive producer of the BAFTA-winning Life and Death Row and its director Ben Anthony. Georgina Campbell, who won the BAFTA for best actress in 2015 for Murdered by my boyfriend has also thrown her support behind the campaign.

In the letter, they describe the decision to move the channel online as “disastrous” and point out it “will remove at a stroke a vitally important outlet for new talent”. BBC3 was launched twelve years ago and over £1billion of licence-fee money has been invested in it since it was founded.

They add that moving the channel online and cutting its budget will alienate a key audience of young viewers and risk the future of the BBC, warning: “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 letter calls on the BBC to reinstate immediately BBC3’s funding, and reverse plans to relaunch it as an online-only channel. “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,” it suggests.

BBC3 has built a reputation for commissioning innovative and original programming, including dramas and documentaries, and has launched the careers of dozens of well-known actors and directors.

The campaign to prevent the channel from moving online has won widespread industry support, although some performers and executives from major media companies are prevented from publicly expressing their views because of commercial conflicts or contractual obligations.

Despite that, some of the major players in the UK’s powerful TV industry, including leading independent production companies who are fierce commercial competitors, have come together to oppose the sale and sign the letter.

The BBC Trust is currently considering the closure plan put forward by BBC management and has the power to block it.

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