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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 17:28 GMT
Dyke defends arts on BBC
Greg Dyke: The BBC is reviewing its arts policy
Greg Dyke: The BBC is reviewing its arts policy
BBC director general Greg Dyke has promised to improve arts coverage on the corporation's main television channels in response to fears that they would be shifted to a new digital channel.

Mr Dyke said the BBC was currently reviewing its arts policy and admitted that 2001 was not a great year for coverage on BBC One and BBC Two.


It is not about providing arts programming to the elite

Greg Dyke
The corporation has been accused of ignoring programmes about creative subjects in the search for ratings.

But Mr Dyke defended shows like Rolf on Art, which saw entertainer Rolf Harris looking at impressionist painters and which drew record audiences, during a meeting of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

The show has been was criticised for "dumbing down" and Labour MP Chris Bryant complained that it was the only new major arts show on BBC One in the last 12 months.

Rolf on Art was watched by six million people
Rolf on Art was watched by six million people
"We should not be sniffy about Rolf on Art, because six million people watched the programme and it is surely one of the highest watched arts programmes of all time," Mr Dyke told the committee.

"It is not about providing arts programming to the elite but about bringing art to people who would not normally watch."

Mr Dyke accepted that the BBC has a responsibility to protect the arts on terrestrial television.

Arts programmes would continue to take up a minimum of 230 hours a year across BBC One and BBC Two, he said, instead of being shifted to new digital channel BBC Four when it launches in March.

BBC Four, which Mr Dyke has described as "unashamedly intellectual", is seen as a home for highbrow shows.

BBC Four will screen concerts, documentaries and films
BBC Four will screen concerts, documentaries and films
"I do not think we should be shifting arts programmes from BBC One and BBC Two on to BBC Four," he said. "One of the conditions of BBC Four is that we do not do that."

"We have recently gone through our whole arts policy... it is not the best time for arts. Creative subjects have good and bad times."

He also said the Omnibus programme has increased its audience after being moved from BBC One to BBC Two.

BBC Four, adapted from current digital channel BBC Knowledge, will launch on 2 March.

The corporation has said the channel will screen "diverse, intelligent and culturally enriching" programmes.

Last year, Lord Melvyn Bragg described BBC One's arts programming "a total dereliction of its public duty".

See also:

18 Jan 02 | TV and Radio
BBC Four promises 'culture feast'
18 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
'More arts' for Channel 5
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