Sunday night was not the launch of a new channel but a rebranding of an old one. The first hour-and-a-half of programming (Johnny Vaughan, Re Covered and Liquid News) were all stalwarts of the Choice schedule. The only new entertainment pre-9pm was Little Britain, a Radio 4 sketch show adapted for BBC3.
Next up on an opening night was the ground-breaking comedy of Paul and Pauline Calf, a wacky documentary, Body Hits, and This is Dom Joly, in which our hero goes out on a limb by moving into the spoof chat show arena.
Burn It, a drama with Mel B and Lisa Faulkner, started at 10.35pm. This was the only new drama content, albeit treading a much-worn road of being a Cold Feet for viewers aged between 20 and 30.
After four hours of viewing nothing really stood out. This was a brilliantly hyped launch - posters, supplements, and dual-channel transmission as BBC2 simulcast the first two hours of BBC3; great PR. The communications campaign was only let down by the uninspiring content. On the day that we are told the licence fee is going to be raised to £116, we should expect more from this new channel.
What I find really annoying is its lack of either intellectually stimulating material or new untried formats. This channel simply takes up the baton handed over from BBC2 and has a very strong middle-class/middle-England feel to it. Steve Coogan should have been asked to introduce a new character and Dom Joly appears to be a talented one-trick pony.
The BBC's remit is to extend viewer choice and this station clearly does not. We now live in a multicultural nation and one that is rich in its regional heritage. Looking at the coming schedule I find no Scottish/Welsh/Irish/Indian/Yorkshire/West Country influenced shows on the agenda. There was a comedy featuring three black girls (Three Non Blondes) but it was buried at 11.45pm. The BBC output needs to mirror the people who pay for the channel - the public.
As a member of the advertising community, I am sick of the slack that the BBC is allowed when it comes to its remit. Clearly anything transmitted on BBC3 can already be seen on Channel 4, E4 and sometimes Sky One or ITV2. This station will be successful and will pull impacts out of the commercial sector, thus bringing inflation into the market. While this goes on, the commercial sector works in a very tightly regulated fashion, channels that flaunt the rules are regularly banged to rights. These double standards are both wrong and limiting to those competing against the BBC.
A great benefit of having the BBC is that it is not a slave to ratings and can afford to fail. This means directors can push the envelope in a way that we are currently seeing in the US. Hopefully, this safe launch is just a platform for future innovative programming.
- Anglo-Scot Edward Lloyd Barnes, the managing director of The ComFederation, was irate not to see more Scottish drama on BBC3.