Do 16-34 year olds still watch terrestrial TV? More importantly, will they still be watching in a year’s time when BBC 3 re-launches as a linear station? Six years ago, the youth orientated channel switched to digital-only as part of a £100 million cost cutting measure. Since then they have produced a couple of runaway successes such as the all-conquering Fleabag, hence the decision to have another crack at broadening their appeal to a rapidly dwindling youth market where TV sets are a rarity and scheduling anathema.
Once it is up and running again in January will the channel be able to fulfil its remit by appealing to a broad spectrum of younger viewers most of whom have already switched to subscription platforms? By clinging on to the anachronistic licence fee that no right minded millennial, let alone Gen-Z would go near given the choice, Aunty has already alienated the very audience it is desperately trying to woo. So what of the channel’s content; is there enough there to grab attention away from Netflix et al?
The current schedule doesn’t inspire confidence with an all too familiar mix of garish reality shows, social justice hammer blows and Stacy Dooley. The target audience appears to be almost exclusively urban kids with attitude. Core Reithian values have been jettisoned in the usual rush to stay relevant. But chasing after fickle fashion, ‘edginess’ and the same old progressive orthodoxies doesn’t make you relevant, it makes you a slave. Surely the job of a public service broadcaster is to buck trends and rise above the limits of the market place.
Yes, BBC3 has produced some thought provoking shows that deal in worthy causes and Normal People really struck a chord with younger viewers but rather than broaden its appeal further, producer Ash Atalla has revealed that the channel intends to narrow its approach by focusing instead on issues that ‘concern young people’, namely ‘gender, race, sexuality, identity and the environment.’