Ofcom approves BBC Three's return as broadcast TV channel

The corporation has struck a new deal with the Pact trade association ahead of the relaunch.

BBC Three’s return as a broadcast TV channel has been confirmed by Ofcom.

The broadcasting watchdog approved the move to take the online-only channel, currently available on the iPlayer, back to linear services.

The channel will relaunch in early February and will be available on Freeview, Sky, Virgin and Freesat.

The decision, which coincides with the publication of Ofcom’s annual report on the BBC’s performance, said the relaunch would help the BBC reach younger viewers, particularly those from lower-income homes and those living outside London and the South East.

It said that to ensure the channel is “distinctive”, at least 75% of its broadcast hours must be original programmes commissioned by the BBC for UK viewers.

BBC Three controller Fiona Campbell said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that Ofcom have now confirmed that BBC Three will be returning to TV screens next year.

“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 UK and we will continue to back new talent and bold ideas.

Fleabag second series
Fleabag was a recent success story for BBC Three (Luke Varley/PA)

“This approach will bring the audience a distinctive mix of programmes that are there to entertain, inspire and challenge thinking, at a pivotal and exciting time to be young in the UK.”

The BBC has also agreed a new terms of trade deal with the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (Pact) trade association relating to TV production from independent producers.

The corporation previously announced it was aiming for at least two-thirds of its expanded programme spending to be outside London.

Pact’s director of business affairs Max Rumney said: “Our members are pleased to see the return of the linear channel and the opportunities this will bring for producers to showcase the brilliant creativity of the UK independent production sector.

“It is a great example of Pact and the BBC working together to deliver a positive result for everyone.”

As a TV channel, BBC Three was best known for shows such as Gavin And Stacey, Being Human and the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood and won various accolades.

In March 2014, the BBC announced it was planning to move the channel online.

Reports said the corporation would save around £30 million through the move.

News of the move online sparked various reactions, notably a protest outside Broadcasting House.

More than 300,000 people signed a petition to save the channel on change.org.

In March this year, the corporation announced BBC Three would return as a broadcast TV channel following the success of shows including Normal People and Fleabag.

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