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Three to None

6th March 2014 — The Blog / Word on the Street

Yesterday, in our office, it started as a chat. Quickly escalated to a discussion. Then descended into a full blown, stand-up, passionate argument.

 

Is BBC Three worth fighting for? Worth saving? Worth anything to the audience it purports to represent?

 

We’re proud of Lemonade Money’s staff demographic – the majority of which fit squarely into the 16 to 34 year old age bracket that BBC Three is remitted to serve. But as the, frankly astonishing, news trickled in that the youth broadcaster was to be closed and the brand “moved online” the first reactions from the younger members of the team were equally cutting.

 

“Meh. I don’t watch BBC Three anyway.”

 

Let’s be clear – this is not an argument about content. You can shout ‘2 Pints! Coming Of Age! That mad Danny Dyer UFO thing??!’ all you want. You can point and laugh at 60 Second News and its, almost insulting, use of ‘graphics’. And I’ll be the first to join you in a more serious conversation about the horrible format habit of old adults pointing and tutting at young people as they try and discover their identity. Yes, BBC Three’s content has had more than it’s fair share of misses.

 

But by being drawn into and seduced by a tit-for-tat discussion about individual shows, we in risk missing the real story. A story about what TV is for.

 

I love television. The debate around broadcast and its relevance in a connected world is alive and fascinating. I firmly believe that scheduled programming on television continues to be the best-in-class method to provoke debate, create stars, establish brands, entertain and provide a unique shared experience that is not possible to replicate in any other way. Look at the top trends on twitter on any given evening if you don’t believe me.

 

So when I hear (predominantly young people) cry, “TV is dead!” – I take it personally. Because it isn’t true. It’s just not working hard enough for you.

 

What is being proposed is an abandonment of young British audiences on a public service broadcaster that they also pay for. We are signalling very clearly to an entire generation that they are not important enough for the BBC to take seriously; that they are not important enough to be represented, challenged and served in a full and appropriate way. That, rather than meet the difficult challenge of making good content for young audiences, we would rather walk away defeated.

 

With that attitude, how can we be surprised when they turn back to us and say ‘we don’t watch TV’?

 

But the danger here stretches far beyond what the audience finally get’s to see. A decision is being made that the best way for the BBC to make savings is with deep cuts into commissioning budgets for specific audiences. We are punishing the reckless overnight fag packet licence fee negotiation and incompetent management of the Digital Media Initiative, by taking money away from the creative community who believe that British youth culture deserves a real and significant platform. And yes, we at Lemonade Money feel very much part of those being robbed.

 

Furthermore, this is now a game of licence fee chicken. The equation used to be simple – in return for live broadcast TV, you set up a life long direct debit and grumble at the bill once a quarter before again being convinced of it’s huge value. BBC Three’s audience by definition are the same generation that will have to apply for their first TV licence. By removing a live broadcast service for young adults, why should we expect them to start paying a licence for a service that the BBC are unwilling to offer them?

 

But the real disaster is further down the road – where a generation of young artists will no longer see TV as their canvas. Young journalists replaced by point and laugh reality stars. Cutting edge video directors being shepherded off to self publish online. Smart, intelligent and compelling young contributors, being left ignored by broadcast and silenced by public service. That’s not just sad. It’s dangerous.

 

Let’s be clear – ‘Young people don’t watch TV’ is not an excuse. It’s a huge, exciting, rewarding challenge. A challenge that I personally refuse to walk away from.

 

So I ask that The BBC Trust strike down this plan with force and further compel the industry to do much, much more to celebrate and represent the best in British youth culture on television.

 

#saveBBC3 #saveyouthculture #saveTV

 

Faraz Osman.