BBC Three to return with a regional focus, channel controller says

The channel will relaunch on February 1.

BBC Three will return with a focus on providing regional content and opportunities, the channel’s controller has said.

The channel will relaunch as a broadcast TV channel from February 1, after its operations were ceased in 2016 and replaced by an online-only version available on iPlayer.

Its launch night programming will include the first ever RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK Versus The World, which sees the UK play host as nine international Drag Race alumni compete to win the title of Drag Race Superstar.

Speaking ahead of the channel’s launch, BBC Three controller Fiona Campbell said: “In terms of the UK, you can’t be relevant to your audience unless you’re making content that’s very close to your audience.

“I think people’s mobility, in terms of geographic mobility, has obviously gone down in recent years so the relevance of where they come from has gone up.”

She added that the channel has been focusing on creating content across the UK with regional independent teams in order to provide “regional creative opportunities and a pipeline of experience for the future”.

“That’s where I’m trying to take this channel, because then you’re relevant to people and important to them and you mean something to them,” she explained.

The channel has already started this enterprise by commissioning shows such as The Fast And Farmer (ish), which sees young Northern Irish farmers racing their tractors.

The Fast and The Farmerish (Alleycats TV/BBC)

A BBC Three soap opera which was set in a region such as Belfast, Aberdeen or Newcastle to showcase modern Britain and to provide a place for new young writers and actors to establish themselves was something Campbell said she would love to have on the channel.

She described BBC Three’s style as “unfiltered, unapologetic and extraordinary”, saying they are “hyper-focused” on what they want to represent and give a voice to, and that popular competition series such as RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and Glow Up: Britain’s Next Make-Up Star have helped establish that for viewers in recent years.

“Drag Race is definitely a core pillar of the channel’s identity, along with shows like Rap Game and, and Glow Up,” she said.

“Our channel is all about a concentrated experience of how tough it is to be super young in the UK today and that show epitomises and embodies that tough emotion and feeling.”

Drag Race: UK Versus The World
Graham Norton who is on Drag Race: UK Versus The World (Guy Levy/BBC)

Campbell noted that, despite the rise of streaming services, she feels live television is still an important medium for creating “a moment” amongst viewers.

The channel launch comes amidst robust discussions about the future of the BBC licence fee, as the Government recently announced it would be under review.

The BBC announced in March 2014 it was planning to move the channel online, but later announced in March 2021 that the linear channel was to return, and was given the green light by the broadcasting watchdog in November.

Ofcom 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 also stipulated the BBC must ensure that at least “75% of hours broadcast each year must be original programmes”, as commissioned by the corporation for a UK viewing audience.

BBC Three will air from 7pm every night on Freeview, Sky, Virgin and Freesat, and will also be available on iPlayer.

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