The Controller’s Chair: BBC Three
1 Jan 2004 0 comments. tbs.pm/1959
Third time wasn’t so lucky for BBC Three. Give Ian Beaumont a go
BBC Three was only launched early in 2003 and yet in its short life, it has sparked more controversy than any other BBC station.
Like everybody who has an interest in television, I can imagine quite easily what it would be like to run my own channel – in this case, BBC Three. In taking my imaginary place “in the controller’s chair”, I would have already made some important decisions about the current incarnation of the channel.
There is a lot of promise in the channel, yet its promise is shrouded and hidden within a schedule that is overflowing with celebrity, repeats and programming which doesn’t fit together very well.
So, let me begin by dealing with what is currently on BBC Three that does.
Current BBC Three Programming
Without question, BBC Three’s 60 Seconds bulletins are one of the best features of the channel. Along with the 15 minute bulletin, these bulletins help define the feel of the channel.
Some say that, because we have 24-hour news channels, we no longer need news bulletins on general entertainment channels. This is a mistake in my view, as not everyone likes the rolling news style. Some prefer regular round-ups, whilst others like short bulletins running hourly or two-hourly.
With this in mind, it would be my intention to run 60 Seconds updates every hour until Midnight, with 15 minute long BBC Three News bulletins at 8pm and 11pm, and an extra 60 Seconds update just before the station closes down for the night.
Liquid News would also be doubled up. Both the 7pm and Midnight editions would be live, but both would be very different shows from each other. The main programme at 7pm, titled Liquid News, would examine the UK entertainment and media scene, whilst the second live edition at Midnight, titled Liquid Late, would follow up on stories updated since 7pm, but mainly focus on the entertainment and media scene in North America, the show being co-hosted from London and Los Angeles (or New York if needs be, using the BBC’s financial dual presentation trick).
The Third Degree would also stay, but no slot is set for it yet. There is the thought of running it as a 15-minute single issue documentary next to the BBC Three News at 8pm on weekdays, or do a longer version, either single issue, like Panorama, or multiple issues, like CBS’s 60 Minutes or NBC’s Dateline, once a week.
Johnny Vaughan Tonight would also return, but with changes. A new presenter would be found, and the name would change as well. The show would be given a 45 minute slot at 11.15 pm, as that would be the most appropriate place, right after the late BBC Three News at 11pm.
Brand New to BBC Three
The way I see a new BBC Three can be best described as cult, edgy, dangerous and sexy. The channel will never be afraid of popular cult and it should never play anything safe. With that in mind, I applauded “Spine Chillers”, which is very definitely edgy, cult and dangerous. What is needed is more of this kind of programming for primetime BBC Three.
I would be looking to commission dramas in the same mode as “Spine Chillers”, though probably not the same subject matter. Somewhere in there would probably be some science fiction and some spy dramas, along with some mysteries and murders. In fact anything that fits the vision.
One very particular slot I would be looking for a commission for, would be the BBC Three serial at 7.30 pm. The serial would have to be something that was cult, but popular cult. Something like Doctor Who would be perfect for that slot.
Each story in the serial would last a week, being spread over 5 weekday episodes. Factual programming commissions would also be in the same mould. Subject matter would probably include Sci-Fi and Science Fact, crime, scandals and spies.
Programmes not to be recommissioned
Not surprisingly, a fair amount of current BBC Three programming wouldn’t get re-commissioned. Some of it would be because it doesn’t fit the new vision and some because it clearly doesn’t work.
Amongst the ones that don’t fit the vision, and therefore don’t fit the channel anymore, are The Office, Shooting Stars, Two Pints of Lager and EastEnders and EastEnders Revealed, which are remnants of the original incarnation of BBC Choice back in 1998.
Amongst the shows that have been proved not to work in my mind is This Is Dom Joly, which is not working as a vehicle for him. Channel 4’s Trigger Happy TV was far better for him professionally. Whether Dom Joly has a place on the new BBC Three depends on if there is a new show that could work both for him and the channel.
Celebdaq is another show that doesn’t seem to work as a TV show, but seems to work best as a web-based game. It too would be for the axe.
Other shows that would face the axe include Stupid Punts, which is more than adequately summed up by the first word of the title. It doesn’t fit a new BBC Three and has to go, as does the Liquid Profiles and Liquid Assets spin-offs from Liquid News. Should there be a story that needs more in-depth coverage, special documentaries from the Liquid News team can always be separately commissioned.
Other shows, such as Re:Covered, Mechanoids and Diners, are currently in the running to be recommissioned for a new BBC Three, but are not guaranteed yet. However, their chances do seem favourable.
The New BBC Three
BBC Three’s branding is pretty good, but I would work with Lambie Nairn and Aardman Animations to gently revise it, keep it fresh and edgy, just like the station.
The station’s branding is as important as the rest of it, it helps to create the station image and to keep the image edgy needs constant work.
In a sense so will the channel itself. To remain firmly centred in pop culture, you must always push the boundaries, and this is something my BBC Three would always be. This is essential to ensure the channel stays fresh.
In summary, BBC Three needs to go from being safe to pushing the boundaries, and whoever really sits in the Controller’s chair must make the transition if they are to justify BBC Three’s continued existence.