Advanced Television

Ofcom consults on BBC Three linear return

June 24, 2021

By Colin Mann

UK broadcast regulator Ofcom is seeking views from interested or affected parties to inform its initial assessment of the BBC’s proposal to launch BBC Three as a television channel.  In February 2016, the service became the first TV channel in the world to make the switch from linear broadcast channel to online-first destination.

Ofcom’s responsibility, as required by the Corporation’s Charter and Agreement, is to ensure that any change the BBC wishes to make to its publicly-funded TV, radio and online services does not give it an unfair advantage over rival broadcasters. To do this, it needs to judge whether the public value of a proposed change justifies any adverse effects on fair and effective competition.

The BBC Board considered that the proposed BBC Three television channel – which it intends to relaunch in January 2022 – would be a ‘material change’ to its UK public services. It therefore conducted a Public Interest Test (PIT) and today published its findings.

In concluding that the new channel will contribute to the BBC’s fulfilment of its mission and public purposes, and deliver public value to justify any competitive impacts – the BBC Board considered the PIT criteria satisfied.

Ofcom is minded to agree that the launch of the BBC Three television channel constitutes a material change to the BBC’s UK public services. Given the potential competition issues raised by respondents to the BBC’s PIT consultation, it is proposing to further scrutinise the BBC’s plans through a full, detailed competition assessment which will give interested parties a further opportunity to comment.

To help inform its decision on how to proceed, Ofcom is giving interested parties an opportunity to tell it how the launch of BBC Three could affect them. Taking account of this feedback, it will conclude this initial phase of its assessment within six weeks, and announce the next steps at that point.

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