The BBC has confirmed plans to shut down the digital TV channel BBC Three in autumn next year, moving all of its programming online to the BBC iPlayer service.
The closure of BBC Three is being spearheaded by director general Tony Hall as part of a plan to make £100 million in budget cuts, but the final decision is subject to approval from the BBC Trust.
According to a press release issued by the corporation, shutting down BBC Three would save £50 million, with £30 million of that money being pledged to support compelling new drama on BBC One.
The savings would also allow the BBC to extend its CBBC channel by one hour each night and introduce a BBC One+1 channel.
In an email to BBC staff, Tony said: “I am certain that this decision is strategically right - but it's also financially necessary too.
"We should close BBC Three as a broadcast or linear channel … I believe it’s the right thing to do: young audiences – the BBC Three audience – are the most mobile and ready to move to an online world. 25% of viewing by 16-24 year olds is to catch-up or other screens and over the next few years we expect that to reach 40%. We recognise that, for now, most of this audience still do their viewing on television, and that is why we plan to show BBC Three’s long-form content on either BBC One or BBC Two.
"BBC Three has an extraordinary track record – it’s been home to 'Gavin & Stacey', 'Little Britain', 'Bad Education' and, right now, 'Bluestone 42'. I’ve also been seriously impressed by the current affairs I’ve seen – from 'Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts' and 'Our War', to Reggie Yates’s outstanding reports from South Africa, ending just this week. You can be rightly proud of what you have achieved so far. I want you to carry on making programmes for young audiences that continue to break new ground."
BBC's controller of television Danny Cohen has promised the new online version of BBC Three will be "bold" and "ambitious".
He added in a statement: “The new version of BBC Three online will continue to have the things we all cherish most about the service – innovative comedy, unrivalled current affairs for young people, incisive and entertaining factual, and original entertainment. I want and expect us to keep making shows for young audiences of the quality of 'Our War' and the public service value of BBC Three’s recent season on young people and mental health.
"BBC Three will continue to build on the comic brilliance of 'Little Britain', 'Gavin and Stacey' and 'Bad Education', of the entertainment value of 'Russell Howard’s Good News' and 'Backchat'. And BBC Three will continue to commission current affairs of the pedigree of recent documentaries on Afghanistan, the Congo, India, South Africa and of course the tough challenges faced by young people here in the UK. What is changing is the way we deliver these programmes to our audiences."