Although I was only ten years old, I still remember watching BBC Three shortly after it was launched. I recall watching documentaries and science programmes which targeted younger audiences (Body Hits in particular springs to mind). They did this with integrity; they were informative, accessible and did not feel as if they had been intensely dumbed-down for my benefit. It has been a long, long time since that has been true of BBC Three programming.
BBC Three is now a shadow of what it once was. It still targets a younger demographic than the other BBC channels, but now does this in an increasingly patronising and idiotic fashion. Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts was made with the admirable intention of confronting teenagers with challenging issues, but it is still not the same calibre of programme that I remember from the early days. The list of documentaries that the channel has aired since 2007 makes for a particularly interesting read: 18 Pregnant Schoolgirls; Bashing Booze Birds; Botox Britain; Addicted to Boob Jobs; Are My Fake Breasts Safe?; Boob Job: My Big Decision. I should also point out that I didn’t even have to go past “B” in the alphabet. I am all for a TV channel that aims to intelligently inform a younger audience, but BBC Three ceased to be that channel a very long time ago.
The majority of those who have been sporting #SaveBBC3 argue that BBC Three is essential to the future of British comedy. So what is currently the most popular comedy programme that BBC Three has to offer? American import Family Guy consistently pulls the channel’s highest number of viewers. Russell Howard’s Good News is probably the strongest home grown comedy show on offer, currently in its eighth series and attracting roughly 750,000 viewers per episode. I periodically enjoy Russell on Mock the Week, but I will not miss him showing a video clip, shouting the painfully obvious in an imbecilic voice and attempting to pass this off as comedy, as he frequently does on Good News. Nor can I see many people pining over this programme if it does cease to exist. Yes, BBC Three has been the birthplace of big comedy hits in the past, particularly those which began on BBC radio, such as The Mighty Boosh and Little Britain. But if Miranda is capable of making it directly onto BBC Two from the radio, then anything actually half decent should be capable of doing the same.
Asides from reruns of Family Guy and Eastenders, BBC Three’s main draw appears to be its voyeuristic programming. Snog Marry Avoid?, the Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents franchise and other similar shows take up a sizable chunk of BBC Three’s available airtime. This is truly “kebab television”; unchallenging, unintelligent and abundantly available on ITV and Channel 4. Regardless of your feelings about the license fee, I think it is fair to say that funding these shows and competing to broadcast American cartoons are not among its best uses.
Some programmes will be missed if they do not make it onto other networks. For example, 60 Seconds is an innovative and clever news feature, Bad Education was decent and I have heard many good things about The Revolution Will Be Televised, even if it isn’t a patch on the work of Chris Morris. Nevertheless, I do not envisage myself, in two years’ time, aimlessly flicking through channels on a weeknight and reminiscing about the days of BBC Three.
If the BBC does need to cut costs then BBC Three is the weak link and should be moved online. As a channel that aims at a teenage demographic, the majority of its target audience watch their TV via the internet in any case, and will not struggle to find the likes of Page Three Teens or I believe in UFOs: Danny Dyer if the mood takes them. Everything that BBC Three does is done better elsewhere, and there is always the added bonus that Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps may never darken my TV screen again.