The BBC Trust has given its approval for plans to take BBC Three online, abandoning terrestrial transmissions in favour of a broadband delivered managed schedule.
At the same time the Trust has approved an extension in the broadcast hours of children’s channel CBBC, but rejected the idea of a BBC One +1.
In its public value assessment the Trust was able to identify a clear long-term potential in a new online service that would save £30m a year and that it thinks will be more distinctive than the existing BBC Three channel, whose audience is currently falling. While it agrees that 16 to 34 year olds are far more likely than any other group to use online video services, it is concerned about a possible short term fall in audiences.
There is also concerned that the BBC might lose the age group from its audience and it’s looking for clearer commitments that BBC One and BBC Two might better serve this audience.
BBC Trust Chairman Rona Fairhead said: “We know young audiences are already moving towards the online future, but we do recognise that in the short term some of them will feel the immediate impact of the BBC Three proposals. We are therefore asking the BBC for commitments to ensure it uses the full range of its television services to better serve young people and others who make up BBC Three’s audience.”
The Trust has asked the BBC Executive to provide it with further detailed information on BBC Three by 28 July 2015. A final decision will be made in the autumn.
BBC One +1 was less fortunate with concern a +1 channel would have the greatest adverse market impact of any of the proposals at the expense of commercial channels. Ofcom’s own conclusions go so far as to suggest such a move might affect the profitability of ITV and Channel 5.
The Trust approved proposals for the iPlayer to feature more online only and third-party content
The Trust’s provisional conclusion is that the public value test is passed and this proposal should be approved.
Audiences will benefit from the development of iPlayer beyond its original remit to include more online-first and third party content, delivered at minimal cost.
The Trust is satisfied with Ofcom’s conclusion that the proposed changes are too limited in scale to have a notable market impact.
Ofcom has identified the possibility that any future acceleration in consumers’ use of iPlayer for browsing and discovering content (for example through the new online BBC Three service), rather than using it for catch-up viewing, could have a greater impact on commercial channels and on-demand providers. While this falls outside the current assessment, it is a point the Trust would need to consider, particularly if the BBC were to propose significant changes to iPlayer. In the meantime, the Trust notes that the amount of BBC Three content that will be available is very limited compared to leading commercial on-demand services.
Ofcom recommends that the BBC sets clear, objective criteria in relation to any third party content on iPlayer, and we intend to make this a condition of approval.
CBBC was looking for an extension of two hours, beyond the current 19.00 closedown. The decision was approved in principal, but is dependent on the capacity being made available from the closure of BBC Three.