The BBC’s plans to relaunch BBC Three as a traditional TV channel have been put in doubt after Ofcom said it would launch a full competition investigation into the proposal.
Earlier this year the public service broadcaster said BBC Three would return to screens six years after it was made online-only as part of a cost-cutting plan.
But following an initial review, Ofcom said the plans represented a “material change” to the BBC’s output and required further scrutiny.
The media regulator will examine whether the move could negatively impact other broadcasters, as well as other concerns including the public value of the plans and potential effect on the UK production sector.
Ofcom has six months to complete its assessment, meaning the BBC may have to delay its planned relaunch in January. The regulator could also block the move completely.
The probe will come as a blow to the corporation, which had outlined plans to bring back the youth-focused channel following a string of hits such as Normal People, Fleabag and Killing Eve.
The broadcaster, which has already pledged to double BBC Three’s budget over the next two years, said its research had showed there was demand for the channel from traditional TV audiences.
Under the corporation’s plans, BBC Three will broadcast from 7pm to 4am every day and boast an annual content budget of £72.5m.
It will offer a mix of genres, including a nightly news bulletin, while the BBC has pledged that original productions will make up 70 per cent of broadcast hours.
The BBC has also said that it will broadcast pre-watershed programming aimed at both 13-15 year olds and 16-34 year olds, while two-thirds of the expanded channel’s programme spend will be outside of London.
Ofcom said it will analyse the BBC’s proposal and consult on a provisional decision as to whether the relaunch can go ahead.