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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Dyke warns of digital backtrack
BBC director general Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke wants proposals accepted in full
By the BBC's media correspondent Nick Higham

BBC director general Greg Dyke has warned the government that the corporation may stop investing in new digital radio services if its plans for new channels are not approved.

And he said the BBC expected its proposals for the clutch of new channels to be approved or rejected in full.

Speaking at the Radio Festival in Manchester on Tuesday, he said: "It's not for the secretary of state to decide the content of the BBC's TV and radio stations.

It's not for the politicians to pick and choose which services we broadcast

Greg Dyke

"It's not for the politicians to pick and choose which services we broadcast."

The BBC plans five new digital channels. They are Network X, aimed at young black music fans and Network Y, aimed at 30 to 50 year-old pop music fans.

Network Z will be a speech station featuring material from the BBC's archives and children's programmes.

There will be a national version of the Asian Network broadcast in the English Midlands; and a sports service, Five Live Sports Extra.


Earlier, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell told the Radio Festival that the BBC had to show that its new services would be innovative, take risks and break new talent.

They should not be used as an excuse to move minority programmes from the main national services, and they must not duplicate what commercial broadcasters were providing.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell
Jowell said the BBC stations had to be innovative
The government has asked rivals to comment on the BBC's proposals - which are opposed by many commercial broadcasters who say they amount to unfair competition.

Last week, Jowell extended the consultation period until 27 July.

She said she would announce her decision by late August or early September.

Digital radio's growth has so far been painfully slow.

With the cheapest digital sets selling for 300, fewer than 40,000 have been sold.

Dyke said the BBC believed digital was the only technology that allowed radio to grow.

"We've invested over 30m of licence payers' money in digital radio and to be frank we've seen very little in return," he said.

But he added that the BBC was prepared to invest more in new services to attract audiences to digital, provided it got government approval.

Northern investment

Dyke also announced that the BBC is investing an extra 800,000 in radio production in the North of England, principally in Manchester.

Much of the money will go on establishing a new unit devoted to producing factual programmes for radio in the city.

The Radio 4 programme You & Yours will be co-presented from Manchester once a week, Woman's Hour will come from Manchester at least once a fortnight and the Radio 4 arts magazine, Front Row, will come regularly from northern venues.

He said the plans were meant to remedy the view that the BBC was a southern-based organisation.

The BBC used to have a team of producers making speech radio programmes in Manchester - but the team was disbanded three years ago when Manchester failed to win enough programme commissions from Radio 4 following the introduction of a new market-oriented approach to commissioning.

Jenny Abramsky, the BBC's director of radio, admitted on Tuesday that the BBC had been wrong to let that happen.

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