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BBC Three to move to iPlayer, freeing up space for BBC One +1

The Beeb wants to yank its yoof-centric comedy channel off Freeview, creating a new +1 channel for BBC One in its place. It'll live on online.

The Beeb plans to axe its yoof-centric comedy and reality TV channel BBC Three from Freeview, the corporation has announced -- but it won't die completely, moving its, er, distinctive programming online to become the first iPlayer-only channel.

Its Freeview slot will be taken by a time-shifted BBC One, letting tardy viewers catch up on what happened an hour previously on Auntie's flagship channel. Childrens' channel CBBC will also be extended by an hour a night.

The plans are subject to approval by the BBC Trust, the corporation's independent governing body. The Trust rejected plans in 2010 to close the 6 Music radio station, after a concerted social media campaign to save its distinctive programming.

Whether such a campaign will materialise to keep BBC Three's mix of homegrown comedy and gross-out reality TV remains to be seen.

"We propose making this change in the autumn of next year," said BBC Director-General Tony Hall, in an email to staff. "I believe it's the right thing to do: young audiences -- the BBC Three audience -- are the most mobile and ready to move to an online world.

"25 per cent of viewing by 16-24 year olds is to catch-up on other screens and over the next few years we expect that to reach 40 per cent. We recognise that, for now, most of this audience still do their viewing on television, and that is why we plan to show BBC Three's long-form content on either BBC One or BBC Two."

The move would save £50m a year, with £30m of that to be reinvested in BBC drama. It was foreshadowed last summer when new episodes of BBC Three sketch shows and sitcoms, such as Bad Education, were premiered on iPlayer.

"I think this can be transformational for both the BBC's relationship with young audiences and the BBC's approach to the digital age overall," said Danny Cohen, Director of BBC Television. "When we take BBC Three online we need to see it as a brand new Service launch. It is an opportunity for both radical thinking and unprecedented collaboration both inside the BBC and with our audiences and creative partners outside the corporation."