Return of BBC Three to TV ensures universal access, says corporation chief

The chief content officer of the BBC has defended the decision to bring BBC Three back to TV screens as a linear channel, saying it was the responsibility of a “universal broadcaster”.

The channel ceased operations in 2016 and was replaced by an online-only version available on the iPlayer, but its return was announced in March.

TV chief Charlotte Moore told the Edinburgh TV Festival she wanted to ensure there was “universal access” to BBC Three’s most successful programmes irrespective of viewers’ situations and preferences.

She said: “Critically, we know that there is still an audience in the UK that are still watching linear television and the digital divide, which I mentioned earlier, is probably greater than I think any of us believed it would be by now. But it still is.

“We are a universal broadcaster. I want to make sure there is universal access to all those brilliant BBC Three programmes that the BBC makes for everybody, wherever they want to watch it, however they want to watch it.

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“I want to make sure that we really speak to those audiences. We know that the young audience is the hardest audience right now to capture because we know the choice out there and the ability…

“It is not just fellow broadcasters but let’s face it – it’s mobile phones, it’s gaming, it’s YouTube, it’s TikTok.

“It is really important that those young audiences know what we have and I want to make sure we reach everybody.”

Moore said the BBC had “great intentions with BBC Three going online” and “creatively I think it has been really good”.

She added: “I think it has made us think in different ways and my God we have learned so much. So I see it now as a way of taking all those learnings.”

Moore also suggested the streaming giants “would die” to have the “channel impact” of the BBC.

As a TV channel, BBC Three was best known for shows such as Gavin And Stacey, Being Human and the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood.

Hit shows such as Little Britain, starring David Walliams and Matt Lucas, also debuted on the channel, and it has been the home of animated American sitcom Family Guy, created by comedian Seth MacFarlane.

British Academy Television Awards – Press Room – London
Gavin And Stacey aired on BBC Three (Yui Mok/PA)

During the online festival session, Moore said the key to competing with streaming giants with greater budgets is “high-impact content”.

She said: “It is not about the volume of stuff we make.

“It is not about spreading ourselves really thinly and not funding things properly.

“That’s why a lot of what we are doing is thinking about: ‘what does high-impact content mean? What does (real value) for a piece of content mean?’

“It doesn’t mean that you are just seeing it on an overnight, you are there for 12 months and longer, three or four years, on iPlayer.

“So really thinking about the longevity of a piece and content and its relevance.”