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Happy Birthday BBC Three

Zai Bennett

Controller, BBC Three

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This month BBC Three celebrates its 10th birthday. As the controller of this multi-award winning channel I want to tell you more about how, over the last decade, we’ve been providing young adult audiences with fantastic, high quality programmes and also to tell you a little bit about the amazing new shows we’ve got coming up in the next 12 months.

Since the start of the channel in 2003, BBC Three has brought many award-winning, much-loved comedies to the screen including Gavin & Stacey, Little Britain, Him & Her and more recently Bad Education, Some Girls and Cuckoo

In drama we’ve been responsible for much talked-about series like the 2012 BAFTA-winning The Fades, the critically-acclaimed Being Human as well as the Broadcast Award winning My Murder. I’m especially proud of the reputation we’ve developed for punchy, relevant factual programming on the channel including the 2012 BAFTA-winning Our War and Escape From the World's Most Dangerous Place which won Best TV Documentary at the 2012 Foreign Press Association Awards.

Even our entertainment programming has made the headlines when The Revolution Will Be Televised team presented the Chancellor with a GCSE maths text book and highlighted the high-street brands that don’t pay tax in the UK, demonstrating that young adults are interested in political and social issues if you present them in the right way.

We may have a laugh with our comedy, but we take our documentaries and journalism rather seriously on BBC Three. Recently we’ve been tackling big, important issues as diverse as racism in football (in Is Football Racist?) to young women converting to Islam in Make Me a Muslim. We also make sure we give our audience a rounded view of the world with important shows like The Truth About Child Brides highlighting the issue of forced marriage in India and Bangladesh and the recent hit series of Stacey Dooley in the USA examining some of the new social phenomena that could hit our shores soon like gay conversion camps and boot camps in women’s prisons.

We don’t shy away from these difficult areas, such as children in detention in Kids Behind Bars or teenage poverty in Growing Up Poor, but the one thing we do that connects these important programmes is the unique way that we give our audience a voice to tell their own stories, unmediated, straight to the viewers. Don’t start to think we just do a bit of this because we’re the BBC and we think we should, the truth is we love empowering our audience and fighting for them, it’s an essential part of why we exist and it’s something no other channel in the UK does for people aged 16-34.

Over its history BBC Three has helped develop some huge talent like Russell Howard and Russell Tovey, and even a few people not called Russell, like James Corden, Ruth Jones, Matt Lucas and David Walliams. We love it when our stars get properly famous and go and play with the big boys and girls at BBC One and Two because it means we can go and find some more newbies. We’re still hard at it, working closely with the stars of the future like Greg James, Russell Kane, Nick Grimshaw, Sarah Solemani, Cherry Healey and Stacey Dooley. BBC Three is the TV channel for young emerging British talent.

I’m proud that BBC Three has become the most watched digital channel in the UK, reaching 30% of 16-34s every week with the second highest appreciation score of any BBC service (just after those pesky grown-ups at BBC Four). This is a huge achievement when you think about how much more money the big boys have than us – we really get the licence fee payers a big bang for their buck. It’s also not all just about a little upstart TV station, BBC Three embraces new technology and new ways of doing things. We want our content to sit wherever our viewers are consuming it so on their mobile, their tablet or their PC. BBC Three was one of the first entertainment channels to be streamed online and continues to invest in multi-platform by making loads of original comedy to premier online, watch this space for more news on this soon.

A selection of programmes from BBC Three

Running BBC Three has to be one of the best jobs in television. We make lots of new programmes and we have a remit to innovate and experiment. It’s perfect for someone who always wants to try new things, loves being stimulated and having a good laugh. Coming up in 2013 we’ve got some even bigger new shows planned. Sweat The Small Stuff with Nick Grimshaw promises to be a hilarious new panel show, while we have a major new season on mental health and a new format following young people as they get their first car – we really do cover every angle on BBC Three.

I really believe BBC Three is a force for good in young people’s lives. We make enlightening, engaging and entertaining shows that can make a difference. No other channel for young adults makes the volume of documentaries, current affairs and factual that we do or anywhere near the amount of new British comedy. BBC Three is a cornerstone of the BBC’s on-going mission to entertain, educate and inform, but always in our own inimitable way.

So, ‘Happy Birthday BBC Three!’, and well done to all the teams who have worked on the channel and its shows over the last ten years.

Watch out everyone, we’re nearly a troublesome teenager….


Zai Bennett is Controller of BBC Three

More information about new programmes on BBC Three in 2013 can be found on the Media Centre website. For regular updates, follow @bbcthree on Twitter.

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