The (almost) lost generation 

13 April 2004

MediaGuardian: Viewers desert BBC channels

Another day, another “BBC is down the pan” story, but this time the news is both good and bad. Good in that considering the 300-plus channels that are now available, the number of viewers not watching BBC channels for at least 15 minutes a week has only slipped by 5.2% since 1995, but bad in that the decline is much more significant amongst 16-34 year olds.

This potentially highlights a flaw in the BBC’s current digital strategy, where BBC Three is meant to be the channel catering for ‘young people’ (officially 25-34 year olds) but seems to have difficulty in attracting viewers for anything other than a small number of programmes across a typical week (ignoring the total reach figures which can be misleading). There’s obviously room for improvement in the future but there’s still a lot of catching up to be done.

Much of the blame for this situation can be directed towards two sources: firstly the remit of BBC Three, which was essentially a compromise hatched to get the channel on air after the first proposal was rejected, and secondly the ‘separate channels’ policy that has created a CBBC/BBC Three division as a byproduct; the BBC really ought to leave such fragmentation to the commercial sector and instead concentrate on a general purpose ‘BBC3’ for ‘young people’ instead.

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