BBC exec Charlotte Moore has defended the recent U-turn to make BBC Three a linear channel once more, following its move to streaming five years ago.
For Moore, who became the BBC’s Chief Content Officer in late 2020, expanding her remit to include radio, education and children’s content as well as TV, it’s all about finding and bringing in new younger viewers.
The exec told the Edinburgh TV Festival: “BBC Three has been making some extraordinary programmes. We’ve increased the budget to make many more. We know that there is an audience in the UK that is still watching linear television. I want to make sure there is universal access to programmes for those BBC Three audiences. The young audience is the hardest to capture, with so much [alternative] choice out there – it’s really important those young audiences know what we have.”
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Pushed on whether the 2016 move online for the channel was a mistake, Moore reflected: “I think there was great intention with BBC Three going online and creatively it’s been really good. I see it now as a way of taking those learnings… iPlayer is the big destination and young people are coming, [but] I don’t want to feel Three sits on iPlayer when there’s this young audience out there.”
The BBC is planning a January 2022 linear return for BBC Three, whose hits have included Little Britain, Gavin & Stacey, Being Human, The Mighty Boosh, People Just Do Nothing and Torchwood.
The decisions surrounding the channel are all part of the BBC’s wider strategy as the country’s biggest broadcaster to play to its strengths while balancing the needs of the declining linear audience with a growing online market.
Moore said: “Linear is in decline and VODs are growing, but SVODS would die to have the impact we have and reach those audiences on a daily basis. It’s about playing the channels [both linear and digital] to be the strongest they can be.”
For producers and commissioning execs, this means a whole new way of working at the BBC – “not commissioning purely for channels any more, but planning programming – getting the greatest value we can from any programme we make, asking where will it sit, where will it feed through, how will audiences find it?
“We want to get the very best value and use our money in the best way – it’s not about the volume, it’s about high impact content and longevity.”
Following a surge of complaints and bubbling unrest about how freelancers are treated across the industry, the BBC was one of the key broadcasters to sign up today to a brand new Freelance Charter, pledging to improve working practices for freelancers across the sector, and Moore today said today that helping to prevent bullying and other exploitative practices was a cause close to her heart:
“Freelancers are the lifeblood of our industry. We would be fools if we didn’t make sure they were being treated like any member of staff, whether it’s independent or on the BBC workforce. We’re updating our respect at work policies, making sure there are safe lines for them to report.
It’s incumbent on me to make sure that people feel they can (report complaints). I’ve had some difficult conversations, but I’m going to have them. I find that empowering in lots of ways, and I want people to feel empowered to call it out.”
She also added her voice to those supporting Jack Thorne’s mission to make working conditions more inclusive for disabled people across the industry, saying: “Listening to those stories [in his MacTaggart lecture on Monday], it’s shaming for all of us. That’s something we’re aware we have to address.”
Moore also agreed with ITV chief Kevin Lygo that quotas for inclusivity were to be welcomed, adding that they already exist within the BBC. She added: “We’ve set aside £100m for diversity programming, not just storytelling but also leadership of company and within production.
“For returning shows, there’s no excuse. We have tough targets I’m determined we’ll reach.”
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