Global ambitions for BBC Four; changes for BBC Two

The BBC is considering plans to turn BBC Four into an archive channel, which would be also be available internationally.

Under proposals submitted to Ofcom today as part of BBC's Annual Plan, most of BBC Four's original programming would switch to BBC Two, with BBC Two becoming the home of the BBC's specialist programming, including the Arts.

Meanwhile, BBC Four would be converted to an archive channel, bringing together collections of content from the BBC's programme library. The channel will still showcase arts programming, with the Culture in Quarantine strand due to continue on BBC Four.

While the service would continue to be available in the UK as part of the licence fee, outside of the UK, the BBC has confirmed it's exploring "potential commercial opportunities for BBC Four to become a new global subscription service", aimed at showcasing the BBC's factual content to the world. Broadcast rights restrictions, licensing barriers and funding concerns currently stop the BBC from making its UK linear channels widely available outside the UK, although international versions of CBeebies, with localised variations to schedules, do already exist.

Away from BBC Four, the BBC also confirmed there was a strong case to reinstate BBC Three's linear channel, but as cuts would be needed across the corporation, changes to local and regional services are being drawn up. The changes to regional services would see more focus on the Midlands and Northern England, with the potential for more shared content away from peak times.

  • The full Annual Plan for 2020-21 is available to download from the BBC website.