The news that the TV channel BBC Three will exist solely as an online entity as of autumn 2015, struck a damaging hammer blow to the nation’s psyche last week. “Will life be worth living if Snog, Marry Avoid? is told to “POD off” forever?” many wondered. Others contemplated a world without Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents. Would the living come to envy the dead?
Yet snootiness aside, many questions are raised by the imminent demise of the only specifically youth-orientated TV channel in the UK. For one thing: what will be BBC Four be called now? Will it now become the new BBC Three? The potential for confusion is endless. Another question persists: How will British viewers get to watchFamily Guy now? And, more pertinently, how precisely does BBC Three save money by going online? Surely it is the production of TV programmes, not the fact that they are broadcast on TV, which incurs by far the greatest sum of the costs? How does switching all of the content online save serious money?
More seriously, this is a shame, simply because while it is all too easy to deride much of its content, BBC Three has built up a good record for launching new comedy in the last decade. Both Little Britain and Gavin & Stacey first appeared on BBC Three and became among the biggest British TV comedy hits of the last ten years. Both ultimately transferred to BBC One, where it must be said, their lustre rather faded over each of their three series. But their early freshest TV episodes appeared on BBC Three, (Little Britain, it should be said, technically first appearing on Radio 4).
Nor is it by any means clear that BBC Three’s best days, comedy or otherwise, is necessarily in the past. Him & Her, Cuckoo, Bad Education, Pramface, Uncle and Russell Howard’s Good News have all been typical of BBC Three’s recent comedy output.
In 2010, similar plans to close the BBC radio channel 6 Music were abandoned after a popular outcry. I hope something similar will occur with BBC Three. Leaving aside the issue of whether going online really suggests the “living death” that it initially appears to suggest, with Sky1 already yapping at the BBC’s heels in the comedy output stakes, can the Beeb really afford to do away with BBC Three? For if BBC Three is not there to “feed our funny,” viewers will surely someone else who will.