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BBC Three: Where we are

Damian Kavanagh

Digital Controller, BBC Three

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I wanted to update you on what we’ve been doing at BBC Three, where we are with the proposal to move online and to reassure you again that BBC Three is not closing.

You may have read that the likes of Olivia Colman and Daniel Radcliffe have asked us not to close BBC Three. Or you might have seen the SaveBBC3 campaign. We’re humbled so many of you love BBC Three and wanted to make your voice heard. I want to make it very clear we will always make ground-breaking drama like Murdered By My Boyfriend and In the Flesh. We will still give you comedy of the calibre of the Mighty Boosh and Gavin & Stacey and we will still make documentaries like Our War and Life And Death Row. We will still champion new talent like Georgina Campbell and James Corden.  That is what we do now and what we will always do.

We are not closing and if the move online is approved our programmes will be on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC iPlayer. And we'll be in lots of other places for you to watch our programmes as well.

Here are just a few things in the pipeline for BBC Three. A documentary from Professor Green on Suicide, new drama Thirteen from new writer Marnie Dickens, new comedy Flat TV from Tom Rosenthal and new comedy Top Coppers is coming soon. There's a follow-up to BAFTA winning Murdered By My Boyfriend called Murdered By My Father and Romesh Ranganathan is doing a new show called Romesh's Return Ticket (working title) where he travels to Sri Lanka for the first time.  Plus we’ll have more comedy feeds and People Just Do Nothing and Cuckoo coming back.

Shortly, we'll also announce some new programmes about issues relevant to young people today.  

So, we are still in the TV business. What the move online would allow is for us to react to the huge changes in technology and society we’ve seen over the last few years, and do something innovative for young people that fits how they live their lives.

We could do nothing and bury our heads in the sand and ignore how our lives have changed. Alternatively, we could be bold and embrace the opportunity that presents itself. I really believe great content will thrive wherever it is and it should not be limited to broadcast TV. It should be available to young people when they want, on the device they choose.

What we have proposed puts young people at the centre of BBC Three. I want to give them a voice in what we do and how we do it. Technology now gives us that ability. New BBC Three will be less broadcast. It will also be more collaborative. We will establish a platform for the next generation of talent and give them a place to flourish whatever their skills - making video, acting, writing or digital.

I was at the Broadcast awards earlier this week, and sitting alongside winners the BBC's Murdered By My Boyfriend and ITV, Channel 4, Sky, Discovery and UKTV were Vice. Vice picked up two awards including best popular factual programme for their ISIS film. Watch it. It's brilliant. Ten years ago they were a Canadian magazine. Today they’re winning “TV” awards in the UK. More than anything that demonstrates how different the media industry is from when BBC Three launched 12 years ago.  We have a new guy working with us at the moment, Max Gogarty, who has joined us from Vice, and we want to continue collaborating with up and coming talent across the digital landscape. I think it is important we take what we already do brilliantly, learn from what others are doing and blend them together on new BBC Three.

But new BBC Three won't only be traditional "TV" as we know it. I want it to be so much more.

A couple of weeks back we put this out on Facebook. It’s eight minutes long and was viewed over 4m times in two days, and prompted someone to contact us and say it had saved their life and given them hope.  This is what we could do more of freed from a linear schedule.

New BBC Three is more than video.  Imagine us asking you what you want and making it with the support of Newsbeat, BBC Sport and Radio 1. Think daily content. Think memes, GIFs, lists, animations, authored pieces from contributors, interviews, and picture galleries. The list could go on.  Some of this would be around long-form shows (Instagram animation about domestic abuse linked to Murdered By My Boyfriend); some would be quick turnaround content related to news events (like a sketch about FIFA) or stuff planned in advance to coincide with events like Glastonbury. Whatever makes you think and laugh, or both.

I also want to make it clear, BBC Three is not the only thing we do for young people: BBC One is the most popular channel with young people in the UK; Radio 1 is the most listened to radio station by young people; bbc.co.uk is the third most popular site with young people in the UK after Facebook and YouTube - two places where we want to be. No online platform or broadcaster has this reach. We will use everything we have to promote new BBC Three.

But to do this costs money. We would need to invest in technology, talent and content. With the financial constraints the BBC faces we can't do all of this and run a seven-day-a-week linear channel. 

I’ll be honest, the content budget for new BBC Three would be less than it was. We have to make savings. Does anyone really watch BBC Three from 7pm to 4am seven days a week?

Freed from the constraints of a linear schedule we can prioritise and do more, offering something fresh and new every day. We would spend 80% of our budget on long-form shows and 20% of our budget on new forms of content. We will not make the traditional formatted factual shows like Snog Marry Avoid or comedy panel shows. We will not have expensive US acquisitions. or have to pay for other broadcast related costs or repeats. Consequently, budgets for areas young people told us they wanted for new UK comedy and drama will remain largely the same. The budget for documentaries and current affairs would actually increase.

The BBC Trust will make a provisional decision shortly. There will then be another period of consultation. If we are given the go-ahead we would then look to move online early next year.

I think the creative possibilities new BBC Three presents are exciting and offer a wealth of creative opportunities for content-makers, and something unique and innovative for our audiences. We were innovators with BBC News online, BBC iPlayer and BBC Three. It is time to do it again.

Have a good weekend and watch Murder In Successville.

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