When Fiona Campbell was made editor of BBC Three, in January 2019, the British broadcaster’s youth-focused channel was seen as less important to the BBC’s cultural standing than its traditional broadcast counterparts. The channel had been online for only three years as part of a cost-cutting measure by the publicly funded broadcaster; it had developed a niche following, but wasn’t seen as a core part of the business.
Campbell has changed that. Smart commissioning of shows, forward-thinking acknowledgements of where the industry was going, and the fact that she’s managed to squeeze an increased budget (now £40 million) out of the increasingly parsimonious broadcasting corporation has translated into undeniable success for the channel.
As a result, it has muscled its way back onto traditional TV, with the BBC’s flagship 10 p.m. news losing 10 minutes of airtime to make more space for BBC Three’s slot. Former Ofcom chief executive Sharon White has said that, in hindsight, BBC Three should never have gone off-air.
Campbell has accomplished this by using the platform to represent segments of society that are largely underrepresented in media. By promoting intelligent documentaries, compelling drama, and comedies that appeal to working-class women outside major cities, Campbell has made BBC Three look more like the society it’s meant to represent, and the general population has taken notice.