BBC Three to be taken off air and moved online in March 2016

The BBC Trust has formally approved plans to move the channel online next spring

BBC Three is to be axed as a traditional “linear” TV channel in four months’ time.

The BBC Trust has today formally approved proposals to move the channel online in March 2016. BBC Trustee Suzanna Taverne said in a statement that he decision had been “a difficult one”, but insisted: “The BBC must adapt with its audiences; the evidence is very clear that younger audiences are watching more online and less linear TV.”

In March 2014 the BBC’s director-general Tony Hall announced plans to move the youth-oriented channel online in a bid to cut costs. Earlier this year, the BBC Trust launched a full public consultation into the move, allowing licence fee payers to have their say on the corporation’s proposals for the channel.

Explaining the Trust’s reasons for its final decision, Taverne said: “The plans enable the BBC to deliver more distinctive content online, while bearing down on costs; to address concerns about the impact of moving BBC Three online, we have set new requirements for programmes for younger audiences on BBC One and Two.”

The move of existing BBC Three programmes to iPlayer will not happen abruptly, the BBC Trust explained today, but will instead take the form of “a brief phased migration online from January 2016 until the end of February 2016”. Within 18 months of today’s decision, the Trust will conduct a “service review” to ensure that the corporation is meeting objectives for the new online-only BBC Three.

BBC Three was launched in 2003 with a target audience of viewers aged between 16 and 34. The channel’s biggest hits over the last decade include Gavin & Stacey, Little Britain, The Mighty Boosh, Torchwood and Being Human.