BBC-3 (partially found BBC One satire show; 1965-1966)

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BBC-3 logo.

Status: Partially Found

BBC-3 (also titled simply BBC3) was a BBC One satire and chat show broadcast from 1965 to 1966. Hosted by Robert Robinson, Lynda Baron and John Bird, it ran for 24 episodes and was a short-lived successor of the programme Not So Much A Programme... More A Way Of Life. The show is perhaps most famous for Kenneth Tynan's utterance of the word "fuck" during a live debate on the 13th November 1965 episode, triggering numerous complaints. However, this episode among many others are believed to no longer exist within any known archives.


Conceptualised by Ned Sherrin, the show originally was to be called It's All Been Done Before, reflecting that it was the third weekend satire series written by and starring individuals featuring in Not So Much A Programme... More A Way Of Life, which in itself was a successor of the more successful 1962-1964 program That Was The Week That Was.[1][2][3][4] Instead, the show utilised BBC-3 to reflect the creation of BBC 2 in 1964 (a channel titled BBC Three would not exist until 2003).[5][6] Radio Times would humorously state that the show had "No connection with any other enterprise trading under a similar name".[7]

Featuring Robert Robinson, Lynda Baron and John Bird as presenters, BBC-3 followed a similar format to Not So Much A Programme, consisting of sketches, news-related satire, songs, stand-up comedy, and chat segments.[1][2] For example, one sketch saw performer Bird impersonate then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson.[1] Airing on late-night timeslots, the show featured a rotating cast of performers, including Bill Oddie, who would later star in The Goodies.[1][2] The first episode aired on 2nd October 1965.[8][7] Despite featuring a strong cast of performers, and a writing team boasting the likes of David Frost and Alan Bennett, the show struggled to attract a significant audience.[1][2] Not helping the show was its lack of an original format, with the show cited as a sign the satire genre, popularised in the early-1960s, was in dire need of revitalisation.[1][2][8] This came with the introduction of shows like Not Only... But Also, whose refreshing approach to satire further drove viewers away from BBC-3.[1] Ultimately, following its final airing on 16th April 1966, the decision was made to drop the programme after a single series consisting of 24 episodes.[9][1][8]

Kenneth Tynan Interview

On the 13th November 1965 edition, Robinson was set to interview Kenneth Tynan as part of a live debate.[10][11][2] Tynan was a prominent theatre critic and writer, who in 1963 became the literary manager for the National Theatre.[12][10] He campaigned greatly for the freedom of expression and speech within this performing art, seeing censorship of it imposed by the 1843 Theatres Act as damaging its future within the United Kingdom.[12][10][2] He additionally demanded freedom of sexuality among consenting adults, declaring that sexual matters should be morally objective.[12] He went as far as suggesting that a nation which imposes sexual censorship will in time also heavily restrict the political sphere.[12] Despite living with a stammer that was subsequently mocked by publications like Private Eye, Tynan remained vocal regarding his then-controversial opinions.[10] Tynan's appearance in the show is notably not listed on the episode summary by Issue 2,192 of Radio Times.[13]

During the interview, Robinson challenged Tynan on his views regarding censorship.[10][11][1][2][12] One question involved whether Tynan would create a play featuring sexual intercourse, then a taboo subject matter in British culture.[10][11][12][2] Tynan responded with the following: "Oh, I think so certainly. I mean I doubt if there are very many rational people in this world to whom the word 'fuck' is particularly diabolical or revolting or totally forbidden."[10][11][1][12][2] While the usage of the expletive stunned the audience present at the BBC-3 studio, it was seemingly not shocking enough to warrant the debate's premature end.[10]

The utterance of the word "fuck" outraged numerous media publications and politicians, who indeed found it diabolical, revolting and totally forbidden.[14][10][11][1] The Daily Express' William Barkley lambasted the incident as "the bloodiest outrage I have ever known", claiming it was the first utterance from "an adult male in the presence of women."[10] Another vocal critic was Mary Whitehouse, who had founded the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, a pressure group campaigning against the growth of what it deemed to be tasteless media content, especially on BBC television.[15][10][11][14] Whitehouse was especially angered by Tynan's interview, claiming in a letter to the Queen that he "ought to have his bottom smacked" for the incident.[14][10][11] Tynan received numerous hate mail in the following weeks, at least one of which threatened physical harm against him.[10][11] The subsequent controversy forced the BBC to apologise, emphasising that offensive language could very well be uttered during an intense live television debate.[10][14] It was reported that 133 Labour and Conservative MPs had supported four House of Commons motions condemning the incident, with then-Director General of the BBC, Sir Hugh Carleton Greene, also urged to resign.[12][14]

It should be noted Tynan also had his supporters, some praising his "four-letter courage".[10][11] Particularly, the Cosmo Group was soon established, combatting the censorship campaigns led primarily by Whitehouse.[10] It would soon grow to around 500 members, even including clergymen, councillors, and RAF personnel.[10] Tynan would later give evidence contributing to the repelling of theatre censorship in 1968, as part of the Joint Committee on Theatre Censorship held from 1966 to 1967.[16] BBC-3 itself received an influx of new viewers following the incident, though this would not be enough to warrant a second series.[1] By January 1966, outrage had considerably died down, with the incident cited as an example of Tynan stirring strong reactions.[12][10]

Some sources claim this was the first instance of the word "fuck" being uttered on British television.[11][1][2][14][8] In actuality, three earlier incidents were documented by Armchair Nation; this included the 1956 Panorama interview featuring an inebriated Brendan Behan; a 1959 interview on Roundabout where a rail painter responded "of course it's fucking boring" when asked if his work was dull; and Miriam Margolyes admitted she swore during a 1963 episode of University Challenge.[10][11] Tynan's utterance was, however, the first to garner significant controversy.[10][11][1]


BBC-3, along with rival show Not Only... But Also, was no exception to the BBC's tape-wiping practices, which saw recordings be erased so that the the-expensive master video tapes could be reused and thus provide the BBC significant cost savings.[17] The episode featuring the Tynan interview was among those wiped, with the other earliest instances of "fuck" being uttered on British television also declared missing.[11] A few segments, including a parody titled "The Power Game", have survived and can be viewed on YouTube.



The Power Game parody.

Cleo Laine singing on the final episode of the show.

1965 BBC-3 segment included as part of rare television clips.

External Links


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 BBC documenting the show and its stale nature. Retrieved 21st May '23
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Nostalgia Central detailing the show, its claim to fame, and how it never really replicated the success of its predecessors. Retrieved 21st May '23
  3. Nostalgia Central summarising Not So Much A Programme... More A Way Of Life. Retrieved 21st May '23
  4. Nostalgia Central summarising That Was The Week That Was. Retrieved 21st May '23
  5. BBC summarising the launch of BBC 2 on 20th April 1964, which inspired BBC-3's name. Retrieved 21st May '23
  6. BBC summarising the launch of an actual BBC Three channel on 9th February 2003. Retrieved 21st May '23
  7. 7.0 7.1 Issue 2,186 of Radio Times summarising the first episode of BBC-3. Retrieved 21st May '23
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 British Comedy Guide summarising the show. Retrieved 21st May '23
  9. Issue 2,214 of Radio Times summarising the final episode of BBC-3. Retrieved 21st May '23
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 10.13 10.14 10.15 10.16 10.17 10.18 10.19 Armchair Nation providing extensive detail of the incident and its aftermath, and summarising earlier utterances of the word "fuck" on British television. Retrieved 21st May '23
  11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 11.12 Archived The Digital Fix documenting various early instances of "fuck" being uttered on British television and noting none survive today. Retrieved 21st May '23
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 12.8 The New York Times biography on Tynan and the impact of the BBC-3 controversy. Retrieved 21st May '23
  13. Issue 2,192 of Radio Times summarising the episode Tynan featured in, strangely not including him on the list of contributors. Retrieved 21st May '23
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 The Guardian summarising the negative reactions over Tynan's interview. Retrieved 21st May '23
  15. History Hit summarising the life and career of Whitehouse. Retrieved 21st May '23
  16. Summary of the Joint Committee on Theatre Censorship, which contributed to theatre censorship being repelled in 1968. Retrieved 21st May '23
  17. The Sundae detailing the BBC's tape wiping practices. Retrieved 21st May '23