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U.K. producers Avalon and Hat Trick revealed in January that they had approached the BBC Trust, the BBC’s independent governing body, with a bid to buy the channel, which is facing a move from linear to online-only distribution in October this year.
The BBC instantly dismissed the offer, saying BBC Three wasn’t for sale. The move prompted the bidders to write an open letter explaining their strategy and an “alternative vision” for the channel, with the hope of persuading the BBC to “engage openly” with their offer.
But in a letter to Avalon and Hat Trick bosses Jon Thoday and Jimmy Mulville published Wednesday, Cohen explained the BBC’s stance on the channel and why it wasn’t for sale, saying that it was “unclear” what they would be buying.
“We cannot sell you the BBC brand name, the EPG slot or the vast majority of rights to programs. These are the key assets,” he said. “It is therefore very unclear what value you would be getting or why this purchase would make sense for the BBC or yourselves.”
The corporation, Cohen said, would be unwilling to allow a third-party to make editorial decisions regarding a BBC branded channel in the U.K., while the EPG slot was not something that could be sold as it is granted to the BBC on the basis of its public service remit.
Regarding content, Cohen asserted that several BBC Three programs would be moved to its main channels BBC Two and BBC One, while repeats had already been sold to networks including UKTV. “For a large proportion of BBC Three’s content, the rights are not the BBC’s to sell,” he added.
In conclusion, Cohen said that he didn’t believe there was “viable sale,” although he welcomed both Avalon and Hat Trick to establish their own TV channel for young audiences.
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