Danny Cohen has insisted that BBC Three is not for sale in a strongly worded letter to two production companies who had hoped to buy the corporation’s youth channel.
The beeb’s Director of Television penned an open letter to Jon Thoday and Jimmy Mulville who approached the BBC last month about a bid to buy the station, which is earmarked for a move online. Thoday is behind Avalon Television while Mulville co-founded Hat Trick Productions, the two production companies behind some of BBC Three’s biggest hits.
It was first reported in January by the Guardian that the pair had teamed up to propose a £100 million bid to buy BBC Three. The BBC responded at the time saying the channel was not for sale and the move to online will be going ahead as the Beeb looks to make cuts.
Danny Cohen says that it is still “not clear” what would be bought for £100 million. Cohen says: “We cannot sell you the BBC brand name, the EPG slot or the vast majority of rights to programmes. These are the key assets.” Cohen went on to cite the Charter Agreement as another reason BBC Three cannot be sold nothing that to privatise a UK public service BBC-branded channel would be “incompatible” with its obligations under the charter.
Cohen also said the EPG slot that BBC Three currently occupies could not be sold as its slot on freeview is granted on its “public service remit.” Once the transition to online is complete, a time shift BBC One will take its place on the electronic programme guides. With programming, Cohen added that the BBC will continue to commission hit BBC Three programmes which will broadcast online as well as other BBC channels.
The open letter confirms that the BBC Trust, which oversees the corporation, was approached by the pair with a proposal. Upon this, they asked the BBC for its assessment of the proposal, which is expected to be submitted shortly and outline the main features set out by Danny Cohen in the open letter.
He ended the letter by saying: “I also sincerely hope that we will continue to work together on a great range of programmes and content in the future as we have done with great results in the past. Perhaps you may even be willing to make programmes for a new digital BBC Three and we can enjoy some success there too.”
An initial public consultation on the BBC Three proposal to an online only offering closed last week and the BBC Trust will publish its provisional conclusions in the coming months. A second period of public consultation will then take place before the BBC Trust give a final approval to the move. It is hoped the move will be completed in the Autumn 2015.