An open letter to BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead and BBC director general Tony Hall demands the decision to axe the channel as part of a cost-saving drive within the next year be reversed.
Seven-hundred and fifty names are on letter in total, which describes the plan to save £50 million a year as “disastrous” and “will remove at a stroke a vitally important outlet for new talent”.
Signatories include Avalon managing director Jon Thoday and Hat Trick Productions MD Jimmy Mulville, who have at various times offered to buy BBC Three and run it as an independent entertainment channel.
They are joined by actors and comedians Russell Howard, Jack Whitehall, Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Daniel Radcliffe, Greg Davies, Noel Fielding, Andy Samberg, Imelda Staunton, Olivia Colman, James Nesbitt, Maxine Peake, Aidan Turner, Sarah Parish, Lena Headey and Richard E Grant.
The Personal Managers Association and Writers Guild of Great Britain also lend their support, along with talent agents from Chambers Management, The Agency, Judy Daish Associates, Independent Talent, Artists Rights Group and Avalon Management Group.
Writers Jimmy McGovern, Andrew Davies, Alan Bleasdale, William Boyd and Hanif Kureishi; CEO and artistic director of the National Youth Theatre Paul Roseby and its chairman, former Channel 5 controller Dawn Airey, have also added their names to the letter, which arguably ratchets up pressure on the BBC to stop the move to a higher level than any previous point.
It is also claimed support for the campaign is wider-spread than the letter suggests, but that “some performers and executives from major media companies are prevented from publicly expressing their views because of commercial conflicts or contractual obligations”.
The BBC is struggling to save costs ahead of its Charter Renewal talks next year, with the new Conservative government likely to be tougher on negotiations than the previous Coalition. It claims making BBC Three become a digital-only online brand would save as much as £50 million a year.
The letter demands funding be reinstated, saying: “Either the BBC can continue to cater predominantly for an increasingly elderly audience or it can take the lead and safeguard its position as a beloved and relevant public broadcaster by investing in the talent and the audiences who are the building blocks of the future”.
It added that the 1% of budget the BBC spends on the 16-24 demo – which BBC Three predominantly caters for – would fall to 0.6% under the closure proposal.
“The effect of this reduction will probably lead to a similar reduction by commercial broadcasters which no longer need to compete, with the consequence that the audience of the future will no longer include television as one of its major sources of entertainment,” the letter stated.
The BBC Trust, which governs the BBC, is currently considering Hall’s closure plan, and has the power to stop the move.