In an open letter to Jon Thoday and Jimmy Mulville, who have staged a public attempt to take over the youth-skewing network through their production companies Avalon and Hat Trick, Cohen stressed that the BBC is “not closing BBC Three” and said this is one of the “many reasons” the BBC has not invites sales bids.
“We do not believe that there is a viable sale to be made both practically or in the interests of licence fee payers,” said Cohen, who claimed that Avalon and Hat Trick’s proposed new venture could not use the BBC Three brand name, would not have its EPG slot which is reserved for public service channels, and would not have access to a “very large proportion” to the channel’s programme rights.
“Your proposal does not add up when all these elements are taken in to account. Essentially you would be buying a channel with a new non-BBC name, without an EPG slot on DTT and cable and without any rights to currently produced or archive BBC programmes. When you actually get in to the detail, we are not sure what you would be spending your money on,” said Cohen.
The BBC director said that the BBC must “plan for the future” and not be afraid to “take big risks in a rapidly changing world.”
“Our vision for BBC Three is one for the future, one that will deliver for young audiences in the long-term, one that will make the BBC relevant to young people today, tomorrow and in years to come,” said Cohen.
“We spent years building what BBC Three stands for – young audiences, new talent, fresh new ideas – and we are not throwing that away. We are building on it. We could stand still and be a legacy organisation, accept the status quo and ignore the direction of travel, but that would be to thelong-term detriment of young audiences and the overall future of the BBC.”
Cohen said that the BBC now, as in the past, must “embrace change” and pointed out that there were dissenting voices when the BBC first ahead with BBC iPlayer, and in the 90s when the BBC invested in online – both moves that have paid off.
“The BBC needs to make very substantial savings so it is true that this proposal is partly born out of financial necessity. We acknowledge it is earlier than we might have ideally planned. I have openly said that we would have waited a couple more years to make this move in an ideal world. But that does not change the fact that it is the right thing for young audiences in the long-term,” said Cohen.