MOST of BBC3's output was at "the embarrassing end of drivel", according to corporation veteran Michael Buerk.

The BBC announced earlier this year that the digital channel is moving online to save £50 million a year.

It will be replaced with a BBC1 +1 service and an extra hour of children's programmes. Some of its existing shows will be shown on BBC1 and BBC2, with the majority available on the iPlayer. Buerk, whose BBC career includes stints on The One Show, The Moral Maze and BBC Breakfast, described Snog, Marry, Avoid?, which has run on the digital channel for six series, as "cutting-edge tripe". He said: "The BBC had BBC3, a channel much maligned in its lifetime, mourned unconvincingly in its passing, rather like Tony Benn. It did launch a few good comedies, but a lot of what I saw was at the embarrassing end of drivel. 'Britain's bravest youth media brand', as the BBC put it, will be relegated to the internet.

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"We're told that's where youngsters forage for their entertainment these days, but everybody's still acting as though BBC3 has had a bullet in the back of the head." Among the shows launched on BBC3 are Gavin and Stacey, Little Britain and the award-winning documentary Our War. Some quarter of a million people have signed an online petition asking the BBC to reconsider its plans.

Zai Bennett, who took over as controller of the digital channel in 2011, said the move was an enormous risk. BBC director-general Tony Hall has described it as the right thing to do.

In an email to staff when the change was announced last month, he said the licence fee had been frozen while the demands on it increased. He said: "This is the first time in the BBC's history we are proposing to close a television channel."