News that BBC Three is to be axed is a positive sign that Director General Tony Hall is serious about consigning the wasteful, ‘me-too’ and lowbrow era of predecessor Mark Thompson to history.
Unsurprisingly media luvvies and celebrities whose careers owe something to the channel have sought to whip up a storm in the hope of persuading Hall to continue wasting public money on such courageous output as Hotter then My Daughter and Great Movie Mistakes.
Supporters of the channel insist both that its content is high quality in the view of the target audience and that it’s essential as a way of reaching younger audiences.
A quick look at the channel’s BARB ratings disprove the first of these assertions, over the past four weeks the top ten shows have been dominated by Hollywood films and episodes of Family Guy.
As for reaching younger audiences, BBC One and BBC Two already disproportionality target them – Waterloo Road, The Voice, Merlin, Robin Hood, Mock the Week, Atlantis, The Apprentice are all prime time shows designed primarily with youthful audiences in mind.
Older skewing shows such as Last Tango in Halifax or New Tricks are very rare exceptions in a schedule packed with shows designed to appeal to young people.
If this wasn’t true, if BBC One and BBC Two excluded young audiences then BBC Three would have a purpose. But they don’t.
The £90m spent on programmes for BBC Three doesn’t make the BBC better or more attractive to audiences.
Every pound spent on Don’t Tell the Bride is a pound that’s unavailable to the producers of Atlantis, forcing them to shortchange viewers with unconvincing ‘outdoor’ forest sets because there’s not enough money to film on location.
Money wasted on Hotter then My Daughter would have ensured Spooks didn’t hobble along to an underfunded final series in which MI5 suddenly consisted of 5 people.
For too long programmes which actually get an audience have been starved of cash simply to salve the egos of BBC bosses who refuse to accept that BBC Three is a failure.
£90m plus running costs to air repeats of imported cartoons isn’t value for public money and it’s welcome that in Lord Hall, the BBC finally has a leader prepared to say so.