UK Digital Platform BBC Three, Home To ‘Fleabag’, Gets Greenlight For February Channel Return; Ofcom Report On BBC Bias & Youth Appeal


Fleabag and Normal People platform BBC Three has been greenlit to return as a broadcast channel in February 2022.

British media regulator Ofcom on Thursday officially approved the once popular channel, on the proviso that at least 75% of hours broadcast each year will be original programs that are commissioned by the BBC for U.K. viewers.

This is a deal that had been in the works but has now been rubber-stamped.

Commenting on the decision, Fiona Campbell, controller for BBC Three, said: “This is a big moment, with the new channel providing a destination for young audiences to discover more content on the BBC. We will work hand in hand with iPlayer to provide a broad offering that is representative of the whole of the U.K. and we will continue to back new talent and bold ideas. This approach will bring the audience a distinctive mix of programs that are there to entertain, inspire and challenge thinking, at a pivotal and exciting time to be young in the U.K.”

The decision coincides with Ofcom’s fourth annual report on BBC’s performance, which assesses, among other things, its progress in reaching underserved viewers and listeners. This includes younger people who typically spend less time engaging with the BBC’s programs.

Ofcom’s report found that “the BBC has broadly delivered against its remit”. The media regulator found that the Beeb remains popular with viewers and listeners, and believes that last year its reach stabilised after a period of decline. Almost nine in 10 adults (87%) consume BBC content each week.

The regulator also identified several long-standing themes that it said the BBC must address. These include improving audience perceptions of BBC impartiality and remaining relevant to young audiences.

Last year, more people used BBC news – on TV and online – across all age groups, including young people. It remains the most popular source of news in the UK. But while audiences score BBC TV news highly for accuracy (71%) and trust (68%), audiences consistently rate it less favourably for impartiality, with 55% giving it a high score.

Ofcom said it welcomed the BBC’s plans to improve audience perceptions of its impartiality. “To retain audience trust, we expect it to rigorously assess and transparently report on its progress against this plan. In spring 2022, Ofcom will publish updated research on how audience perceptions of BBC impartiality are influenced.”

Meanwhile, around three in five adults (58%) have a favourable impression of the BBC. But disabled audiences (53%), people in Scotland (49%) and those from less-well-off backgrounds (53%) are less satisfied.

Younger people aged 16-34 spend much less time with the BBC each day – just over an hour compared with 2 hours 23 minutes for the average adult. More children aged 11-16 use Netflix (77%) than the BBC’s TV, radio and online services combined (74%).

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