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BBC3 to make linear return in 2022

The BBC has confirmed it will re-launch online network BBC3 as a linear broadcast channel in January 2022.

Fiona Campbell

The youth-skewing channel will broadcast between 19.00 and 04.00 each day in the same EPG slot as kids channel CBBC, which will adjust its hours to close at 19.00 each day as a result.

Between 19.00 and the 21.00 watershed, BBC3, which generally targets a 16-34 audience, will show content suitable for a 13-plus age group.

BBC3 initially launched in 2003 as an edgy, youth-skewing channel focused on comedy and reality, commissioning break-out hits such as Monkey Dust, Gavin & Stacey and Don’t Tell the Bride.

Since its controversial move online in 2016, it has premiered a number of scripted hits via BBC iPlayer such as Killing Eve, Fleabag and Normal People.

A petition to stop BBC3’s closure attracted more than 300,000 signatures and was supported by Hat Trick boss Jimmy Mulville and Avalon’s Jon Thoday, who suggested they could buy the channel – an offer dismissed by the BBC.

The idea of returning it to linear schedules has been mooted for some time, and today’s news follows the publication of the BBC’s Annual Plan for 2020/21, which confirmed that an audience for a linear BBC3 remained.

Charlotte Moore

The UK pubcaster had already committed to doubling its investment in the channel’s content over the next two years, under controller Fiona Campbell, who was appointed in 2018 and retained her position despite a restructure in December, when the Beeb axed channel controller roles at BBC1, BBC2 and BBC4.

Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s chief content officer, said: “BBC3 is a BBC success story. Backing creativity, new talent and brave ideas has resulted in hit after hit, from Fleabag and Man Like Mobeen, Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK and Jesy Nelson’s Odd One Out, to Normal People and This Country.

“The BBC needs to back success and make sure its programmes reach as many young people as possible, wherever they live in the UK. So regardless of the debates about the past, we want to give BBC3 its own broadcast channel again. It has exciting, ground-breaking content that deserves the widest possible audience, and using iPlayer alongside a broadcast channel will deliver the most value.”

The return of BBC3 as a broadcast channel is subject to regulatory approval from Ofcom. The BBC will start the Public Interest Test process later this week with the publication of a public consultation document on Friday March 5.

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