One of the subjects being discussed at this week's Edinburgh Television Festival, which runs until Friday, is the future of BBC Three. The provisional plan is for the channel is to go entirely online next year and a new man, Max Gogarty, has been appointed to come up with new types of content and new ways of making and showing programmes. In the meantime, the emphasis is on some fairly intense, and sometimes, dark subjects.

The new programmes announced by Damian Kavanagh, the controller of BBC Three, fall into two broad categories: race and gender. Speaking at the festival yesterday, he said he wanted his channel to provide content that was relevant to young people in a format they want at a time of their choosing.

"This is a period of unprecedented change for media and particularly media for young people," he said. "I want us to make content for young people that makes them think about the world around them and raises the issues that matter to them"

The programmes at the centre of the season on race certainly don't hold back. First,. There is KKK Town which travels to North Carolina, where the supremacist group says it's seeing a surge in membership. They claim that white Americans are angry at what they perceive as attacks on their heritage and are joining the infamous group in large numbers, convinced they must prepare for a coming race war. KKK Town films some of their rituals but also films what happened when its members came face to face with Black Power groups.

Back in the UK, the documentary We Want Our Country Back explores another shadowy group called Britain First, which wants to ban Islam from the UK by closing all mosques. The dcoumentary's director Miles Blayden-Ryall spent the summer with the party's leaders Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding as they attempted to spread their agenda on our streets and online.

But perhaps the most interesting programme in the season is a documentary, Is Britain Racist?, which attempts to explore whether we really know our own feelings on race. Three quarters of us say we have no racial prejudices whatsoever, but are we saying one thing and doing another? The tests which demonstrate how race affects our opinions on a whole range of issue are worryingly enlightening.

The second season on race focuses on some similar issues, but this time on the subject of sex and gender. Is This Rape? for example is more of a social experiment than a traditional documentary in that it takes a group of teenage girls and boys – and us, the audience – through a real-life situation and looks at our reactions.

The group of teenagers spent two days being put to the test to see what they actually think about consent. They were a drama, specially created for the experiment, about sexual relations between a teenage boy and girl and, as the scenario unfolded they were challenged to make a crucial decision - whether it's consensual sex or whether a crime has been committed. When the programme is broadcast, we will also have a chance to participate in an online poll.

It's an interesting idea and the kind of programme the controller thinks BBC Three should be making. "It highlights a very real issue for young people today," he said. "It presents the facts in a way that is accessible to young people and it makes young people part of the process. It will allow discussion and debate, challenging perceptions of what some young people believe is acceptable."

There are some other strong subjects, such as women who are involved in violence and a documentary about transgender teenagers, but the real test for BBC Three, when so much television is migrating to the internet, is not so much what it makes, but how it makes teenagers and young people care about it.