BBC Board decision on the BBC Three Public Interest Test

This consultation was open from Friday 5 March to Friday 16 April 2021.

In March 2021 the BBC set out plans to launch a new BBC Three broadcast TV channel as part of the BBC’s drive to deliver more value to younger audiences.

As the channel would be a new UK Public Service, the BBC Board was required to undertake a Public Interest Test. This test, set out in our Royal Charter and Agreement, is designed to ensure that when the BBC make a material change to its UK Public Services, such as launching a new channel, it supports the BBC’s Mission and promotes its Public Purposes and that we are able to demonstrate that the additional public value justifies any potential adverse impact on our competitors or the market.

Following extensive audience research, economic analysis and a period of consultation, the BBC Board has concluded that the proposal for BBC Three to return as a broadcast TV channel satisfies the Public Interest Test criteria.

The Public Interest Test submission and the main supporting evidence used to inform the Board’s decision are published below.

The BBC has now referred the proposal to Ofcom who, as the BBC’s regulator, will decide whether the proposal can proceed or not. Information on how Ofcom will reach their decision can be found on Ofcom’s website.

BBC Three Public Interest Test submission

This document describes the proposals to launch a new BBC Three broadcast TV channel and an explanation of why the proposals satisfy the Public Interest Test.

Our analysis - based on our audience research conducted by MTM, responses to our consultation and modelling of take up and usage - shows that our proposals will clearly deliver high public value, which we have assessed on three levels: personal, social and industry. In particular:

  • It will increase viewing of BBC Three content on the channel and iPlayer, improve the ability of viewers to find and watch BBC Three programmes, and improve perceptions among younger audiences.  
  • The new channel will be distinctive, offering a broader range of genres (including news, current affairs, documentaries and drama, as well as comedy and entertainment), a significant proportion of first-run UK productions and BBC original productions, and will focus on appealing to currently underserved audiences, including younger C2DE audiences, BAME audiences, and audiences outside of London.
  • It will benefit independent producers by creating a bigger shop window for their programmes, under terms of trade. Additionally, our plan to spend two-thirds of BBC Three programme spend outside of London will be good for the creative economy across the UK. 

The new BBC Three broadcast TV channel will contribute to the fulfilment of the BBC’s Mission and promote all four UK-based public purposes through:

  • the news and current affairs aimed younger audiences;
  • factual programming that will support learning among the target audience;
  • high-quality, creative and distinctive programmes; and
  • reflecting, representing and serving younger audiences from across the UK and all diverse groups and supporting creative economy across the UK.

The BBC’s analysis of likely market impact demonstrates a relatively low impact on the market.

Supporting evidence

Consultation responses

On 5 March 2021 the BBC opened a six week consultation on the proposed BBC Three TV channel. We received 22 responses. Where permission has been given, responses from stakeholders are published below.

Consultation (now closed)

The BBC’s consultation on the return of BBC Three as a broadcast TV channel was open from 5 March to 16 April 2021 and is now closed.

Consultation documents