BBC Three, home of Being Human, Bad Education and Gavin and Stacey, has been axed.

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The closure of BBC3 is to be proposed by the broadcaster's director general, the Guardian understands, bringing the curtain down on the youth-oriented TV channel after 11 years.

Tony Hall is expected to announce later this month that he is axing the channel – which first aired programmes ranging from Gavin and Stacey to Hotter Than My Daughter – as part of a plan to save £100m a year.

His decision also signals a reprieve for its sister channel, the arts and culture specialist BBC4, which has faced calls for it to be axed and merged into BBC2 – although it is not clear if the channels will subsequently be renumbered.

However, Hall's plans still have to be approved by the BBC Trust, which four years ago overturned former director general Mark Thompson's plan to shut BBC Radio 6 Music following a concerted protest from listeners.

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Rumours that the channel was under threat led some of the BBC's best-known stars to take to Twitter on Tuesday to urge the BBC not to axe the channel. They included the comedians Jack Whitehall and Matt Lucas, Radio 1 DJs Nick Grimshaw and Greg James and presenter Richard Bacon.

It is believed Hall will consider the possibility of retaining the BBC3 brand online, putting its output on the BBC's iPlayer, where many of its programmes already debut before appearing on television.

But it could be the case that BBC3 in its current form simply disappears altogether.

BBC3, which launched in 2003, built its reputation on the back of comedies such as Little Britain and Gavin and Stacey and documentaries including its Bafta-winning Our War, about young troops in Afghanistan.

But it has also proved controversial, with provocatively titled documentaries such as My Man Boobs and Me and Snog, Marry, Avoid?, and been criticised for boosting its ratings with repeats of EastEnders and Hollywood movies.

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Critics of the BBC's size had singled it out as a candidate for closure, seizing on what they perceived to be its salacious and celebrity-obsessed content. But the BBC had long argued it played a role in reaching younger viewers.

Speaking before confirmation of the closure plans, the comedian Russell Kane, a familiar face on BBC3, said: "If BBC3 is really under threat, so is much of the UK's new comedy. This place is the crucible of upcoming comedic artists. Yet again, young people don't get a proper voice in the cutbacks."

Hall told the Oxford Media Convention last week that "hard decisions" had to be made and that the BBC "couldn't stay the same" as he outlined the need to save another £100m a year in the runup to charter renewal and a new licence fee settlement.

He ruled out so-called "salami slicing" – smaller reductions in budgets across the board – to make the savings required, raising the spectre that a frontline channel would be axed.

The BBC declined to comment beyond the statement it put out on Tuesday: "Tony Hall set out some of the very real challenges the BBC faces at his speech in Oxford. He made clear that we will face tough choices about our budgets, and while nothing is off the table, no decisions have been made."

Favourite BBC3 show, ONTD?