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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Dyke 'optimistic' on BBC Three
BBC Director General Greg Dyke
Dyke: To revise plans with urgency
BBC Director General Greg Dyke has said he is "optimistic" that BBC Three will go ahead next year despite its rejection by the government.


It was not clear that its proposals were truly distinctive in an already crowded market

Tessa Jowell

Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, refused approval for a proposed replacement for BBC Choice on Thursday and asked for revised proposals.

"This is not a disaster," said Mr Dyke at the Royal Television Society in Cambridge on Thursday night.

"We put in applications on nine and we got approvals on eight, with some enthusiasm.

"We are still optimistic that we will be able to launch BBC Three next year. We will be having discussions in the coming weeks on what needs to be done.

"It is pretty urgent we get to the bottom of the issue about BBC Three because the channel is one part of a complete portfolio of services. The portfolio together makes sense and adds up."

Earlier he described the rejection of BBC Three as "naturally disappointing", but emphasised that the BBC would apply again "with urgency".

Mrs Jowell also announced an independent review of BBC News 24, which has come under criticism from rivals.

Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell: Soon to appoint a new BBC chairman
Three new BBC television services and five new radio services were given conditional government approval, despite opposition from commercial broadcasters.

They had argued that the new BBC services would be too similar to their existing pay-TV channels, and would reduce subscriber numbers and harm their businesses.

    The new services, all free to those with access to digital TV, include:

  • Two television channels for children - one for children aged six to 13, another for those aged under six years

  • BBC Four - a service for "anyone interested in culture, arts and ideas", to replace BBC Knowledge

  • Five digital radio services: Network X, for a young specialist audience, Asian Network, Five Live Sports Extra, Network Y, an archive music and voice channel and Network Z, a speech-based service

  • The World Service will also be extended to the UK.

"The BBC still has not made the case for BBC Three, the station for 16 to 34-year-olds," said Mrs Jowell on Thursday.

"It was not clear that its proposals were truly distinctive in an already crowded market, so I have asked the corporation to rethink its plans in this area.

"But overall, the new stations should attract a wider range of viewers to all digital services."


Short of having a last word with our lawyers, we're going to have to battle on with it

Artsworld chairman
The decision met with a guarded reaction from other broadcasters.

ITV said it welcomed the services, and Channel 4 gave its conditional support. Children's broadcaster Nickelodeon UK also gave a cautious approval.

But Sir Jeremy Isaacs who chairs the Artsworld channel - a rival of the new BBC Four - told BBC Radio 4's Front Row: "We will certainly be thinking what we're going to do next.

Short of having a last word with our lawyers, we're going to have to battle on with it."

Asked if that meant legal action, he said: "I'm not going to say we're sitting down with counsel tomorrow. But we need to consider our position and we need to work out what, if anything, we are going to do next."

The government has set conditions for the new BBC services.


We remain convinced that the BBC has much to offer younger audiences

Sir Christopher Bland
These include an insistence on high quality, but not at the expense of existing BBC output, the use of home-grown talent and productions, and online support services.

The review of BBC News 24 will check that the service still operates in the way originally approved by the government.

Ms Jowell plans to review all BBC services as part of the review of the BBC's charter.

She has written to BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland saying she would start with the rolling news channel, which has this week been focusing on the terrorist attacks in the United States.

She has asked the BBC for a detailed assessment of the channel's performance, to be given to an independent reviewer - who will be appointed shortly.

A timetable for the procedure will be drawn up by the end of the month.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Higham
"The new channel (BBC Three) would have been too similar to existing commercial rivals"
Tessa Jowell, Culture Secretary
"It's for the BBC to comeback with a new proposal that is distinctive"
See also:

11 Jun 01 | Entertainment
Jowell's job at the top
11 Jun 01 | TV and Radio
Tessa tackles in-tray
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