TONY ON TV: BBC3 axe sparks flurry of criticism from stars

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SO, it’s goodbye BBC3 and hello to ITVBe.

The bombshell news that the Beeb’s youth and comedy-focused channel was being axed (or at least only being available on iPlayer from autumn 2015) was in stark contrast to ITV’s earlier announcement that their latest free-to-watch channel was being switched on later this year.

ITV chiefs were quick to big up ITVBe, their newest member of the family, which, they claim, will feature the best entertaining lifestyle and reality programmes from the UK and the USA. That’s all well and good, but when ITVBe is going to be the exclusive home of the award-winning home-grown series ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ (their words, not mine) as well as welcoming ‘US Real Housewives’ makes me think that councils are not the only ones in the rubbish and recycling business.

The decision to pull the plug on BBC3 -- which gave birth to such gems as ‘Little Britain’ and ‘Gavin and Stacey’ as well as such duds as ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid’ and the current washout ‘Hair’ -- has been criticised by the likes of Jack Whitehall, Matt Lucas and Ruth Jones, but bosses say that some of the money saved will be ploughed back into beefing up drama production on BBC1 as well as making space for a BBC1+1 catch up service.

And, if you can’t get enough telly, ITV is getting ready for the launch of ITV Encore, its first pay channel on Sky, giving viewers the chance to watch the most successful drama series of recent year as well as new productions.

This is due to come online next year, but before then there’s plenty of free entertainment to suit all tastes. For edge-of-the-seat action there are the penultimate episodes of crime and corruption at home in the must-see police thriller ‘Line of Duty’ (BBC2, Wednesday), which is as gripping as the Belgian baffler ‘Salamander’ (BBC4, Saturday), even if parking in Brussels city centre is a doddle compared to getting a space near the Four Seasons.

For lighter fare, it’s the end of road (at least for the time being) for ‘Inside No 9’ (BBC2, Wednesday), the dark comedy from Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, while on Friday on BBC1 Alan Davies as ace sleuth ‘Jonathan Creek’ wraps up another baffling case in ‘The Curse of the Bronze Lamp’ with June Whitfield playing the dual role of twins.

And if you’re after facts, rather than far-fetched froth, don’t miss tonight’s documentary of the week, ‘The Miners’ Strike and Me’ (ITV1 at 10.35pm), marking the 30th anniversary of the dispute through the experiences of men and women whose lives were changed forever by the year-long struggle between striking miners and Margaret Thatcher’s government.

Although it was three decades ago, the standoff -- sparked by the National Coal Board’s announcement of the closure of 20 pits with the loss of 20,000 jobs -- left bitter memories, divided and broken communities and marked the decline and fall of ‘King Coal’ in Britain.

This is made even more poignant in that before the strike the UK had coal reserves which would have lasted centuries. Now, coal is imported from Australia on the other side of the world, and from Columbia in South America.