The Ninth Doctor – the BBC Three repeats


Some thoughts on tomorrow’s anniversary of the first Ninth Doctor repeat…

The best fact about Doctor Who story Rose is that it was broadcast (on 26th March 2005) before there were any videos on YouTube.

“Me at the zoo” was uploaded almost exactly four weeks to the hour after that BBC One broadcast, the YouTube video appearing on Saturday 23rd April 2005.

So Doctor Who‘s 21st Century era began before the age of YouTube, but after the era of digital TV began, which either began 1998 with BBC Choice or perhaps, properly, 2003 with the launch of BBC Three.

“BBC Three will continue to do all the things we love but it will also have the freedom to break traditional shackles and allow the BBC to be a leader in digital change. It will not just be a TV channel distributed online. There is a wonderful creative opportunity here to develop new formats with new programme lengths – and to reach young audiences in an ever growing number of ways. Will we still want to make all of our current affairs documentaries at 60 minutes in the age of Vice and YouTube? Will we find that contemporary documentary and formats work much better at 40 or 45 minutes than 58? What will we learn about the length we want to make each episode of our dramas or comedies, perhaps learning from new market players like Netflix and Amazon?” – so said Danny Cohen, Director of BBC Television, as part of this month’s BBC announcement to close BBC Three as a TV Channel.

“Young people don’t watch television anyway – it’s all about tablets for them so we shouldn’t be too bothered” said Jarvis Cocker to, weeks later, as the BBC launched its new arts programmes.

The Common People singer may have the idea that the youth of the UK stroll around with their iPads, perhaps enjoying the latest “current affairs documentaries” offered by the BBC that the Director of BBC Television is keen to showcase, though I would say there is still something to say for the television set, with its “linear channels”.

Doctor Who is one of the programmes used to draw an audience to BBC Three, an audience that might stick around after the Science Fiction repeat for those documentaries which are actually very good. If Doctor Who can fulfill the entertainment aspect of the BBC’s mission to “inform, educate and entertain”, then it can also build an audience for the programmes that fulfil the other aspects.

There will be a significant segment of the BBC Three demographic that actually watch it as an on-air TV channel only, so this will be closing off part of the BBC output to them.

Will the Doctor Who repeats continue for 2015? Maybe as the Twelfth Doctor’s second season begins, as BBC Three closes as a TV channel, there will be BBC-Three-branded repeats for Doctor Who on the iPlayer which may have documentaries digitally “around” them, but even that scenario loses the integrated range of entertainment and education that BBC Three currently offers as a TV channel on Freeview.


Rose – first repeated on BBC Three 27th March 2005 – seemed to suggest that the BBC hadn’t forgotten about how horizons can be expanded, and the youth of the UK weren’t all self-facilitating media nodes, but regular people.

The proposed closure of BBC Three as a TV channel seems like a retrograde step.


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