Part of the BBC's remit is to plug broadcasting gaps. 6Music and TAN are a little niche, but they know what their listeners want and that they're not going to get it elsewhere. BBC Three, meanwhile, scatter guns mediocre American imports, insane reality TV and abysmal sitcom pilots. When the channel launched in 2003, its controller Stuart Murphy promised: "BBC Three will be packed full of modern, radical, imaginative and funny British shows." That its opening night included the premiere of 3 Non-Blondes should have tipped us off that this wasn't, and never would be, the case.
Now, in 2010, the bulk of airtime is taken up with US and reality tripe. If these weren't offered up elsewhere then fair play to BBC Three. But E4, Sky1, Five US and countless other channels exist exclusively to spew out this type of daft but enjoyable screen junk, and they don't pay for it out of our licence fee. How is it that a branch of our world-beating public service broadcaster gets away with commissioning cerebellum shrinkers like Snog Marry Avoid? or Lindsay Lohan's Indian Journey, then spends the change on Family Guy? They think they're trendy and appealing to young people. So are class As but we don't pay for them out of out tax money.
More troubling is the channel's inability to commission good comedy. It's like an academy for pilots that will never fly. Hungry comedy writers used to earn their stripes on radio then fight for a coveted slot on BBC Two. This system meant we could trust that very nearly every show that got to the TV commissioning stage would have something about it. Now, thanks to BBC Three, there's an abundance of airtime and zero quality control. Building an audience for the occasional BBC Three gem like Pulling (R.I.P) is that much harder because it's surrounded by dreck. We're so accustomed to hating every new sitcom on BBC Three (the unique selling point of which always seems to be that it's written by someone who's still at university) we don't bother switching on.
BBC Three has bleated on about its role as a talent finder and nurturer of fresh genius, but it rarely does either (Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, anyone?). The channel has had seven years to prove itself and hasn't. Get it off.