BBC Three is back

BBC Three is back (probably) — Ofcom says ‘Yes… but’

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BBC Three is back and will be broadcast again from January 2022. Probably. We explain…

Ofcom has agreed (in principle) with the BBC’s plan to bring BBC Three back to broadcast viewers in January 2022.

You can follow the Ofcom process on their website, and today the focus is on the latest update:

As required by the BBC Charter and Agreement, we are considering the BBC’s proposals through a BBC competition assessment (BCA).

We have published our provisional conclusions that the BBC should be permitted to re-launch BBC Three as a broadcast television channel. We are now seeking views from interested or affected organisations and individuals on our provisional conclusions.

So what does that all mean?

It means yes, in so far as something called a Public Interest Test is concerned. You can read the BBC statement on the test on their website, but in essence the conclusion comes from the following analysis:

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. 

While the BBC’s analysis suggests little market impact (ie the BBC isn’t muscling in on commercial providers who can’t compete against licence fee funded programming), there is still one more hoop to jump through.

What’s next?

The final step is for Ofcom to complete it’s consultation process, in which interested parties get to point out issues the Public Interest Test might have missed. People have until October 14 to respond. While we don’t suggest it’s a token process, our suspicion is the decision will hold. We’ll keep you posted.