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BBC Trust approves BBC3 online move

The BBC Trust has formally approved proposals to move BBC Three online, and has set conditions to ensure that younger audiences continue to be well served, in its final decision on a package of proposals from the BBC.

Trustees concluded that that there is clear public value in moving BBC Three online, as independent evidence shows younger audiences are watching more online and watching less linear TV. The move will also contribute to the significant savings the BBC is currently making.

The decision follows a detailed and rigorous assessment that began in January 2015, which has included two public consultations, audience research, and a wide range of independent evidence.

The Trust’s final decision reflects the provisional conclusions the Trust published in June 2015, but with amended and strengthened conditions in direct response to views expressed by the public and stakeholders during the Trust’s public consultation about the potential impact on younger audiences and those without reliable Internet access:

  • A condition requiring BBC Three programmes to be broadcast on BBC One/Two, has been strengthened so that all BBC Three long-form programmes must be broadcast in slots on BBC One and Two, on an ongoing basis, effective immediately on closure of the BBC Three TV channel.
  • In addition, BBC Three long-form programmes must be broadcast on both BBC One and Two at a variety of times across the schedule and throughout the UK.
  • A condition requiring BBC One and Two to offer programmes specifically aimed at younger audiences, including the BBC Three programmes, now requires the channels to offer distinctive programmes designed for younger audiences, including the long-form BBC Three programmes.

The Trust has also added a requirement to the service licences for BBC One and Two to ensure continued creative risk-taking and experimenting with new talent and ideas. The online BBC Three will also be required to have the same accessibility standards as the TV channel, wherever practicable.

As part of its ongoing obligations to monitor adherence to service licence requirements, a service review will be conducted within 18 months of the Trust’s decision, assessing the progress of the new online BBC Three and the effectiveness of the conditions the Trust has imposed. The Trust could then consider imposing quotas or formal targets if it considers that performance against the conditions has been unsatisfactory.

As part of its decision, the Trust has also approved plans to extend the hours of CBBC to 9pm, and to develop iPlayer beyond a catch-up service, to include online-first and third party content. But it formally rejected the BBC’s proposals for a BBC One +1 channel, on the basis of limited public value.

BBC Trustee Suzanna Taverne, Chair of the Trust’s Services Committee, which led the assessment of the proposals, said the decision to close a TV channel was a difficult one, and one the Trust had not taken lightly. “The BBC must adapt with its audiences; the evidence is very clear that younger audiences are watching more online and less linear TV. The plans enable the BBC to deliver more distinctive content online, while bearing down on costs; to address concerns about the impact of moving BBC Three online, we have set new requirements for programmes for younger audiences on BBC One and Two,” she concluded.

The Trust is also requiring the BBC to return with a full proposal for the use of the spectrum vacated by BBC Three’s closure, within three months from November 26; and an update from the BBC on negotiations on content rights before launch.

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