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Wednesday, September 23, 1998 Published at 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK


Entertainment

A new channel is born

Three kinds of mice: The BBC Choice logo

The first new BBC TV station to carry general programming for more than 30 years has started to broadcast - although most viewers cannot yet watch it.

You can watch the channel here LIVE as it is broadcast.


Nick Higham: "A cheap and cheerful spin-off"
BBC Choice is a digital channel and will be available free to anyone prepared to buy a special piece of equipment for their TV system.

But the set-top boxes enabling viewers to watch digital TV will not be in the shops until next week.

What's on offer

The channel offers back-up for programmes already seen on BBC One and BBC Two.

For example, viewers of Match of The Day can switch to BBC Choice to watch more news and comment in 'fanzine'-style show Row Z.

BBC Choice offers a 'best of' selection of the week's talked-about shows on Saturday nights, while theme evenings will support launches of major programmes on BBC One and Two.

There will also be extra sporting and event coverage, so tennis fans can enjoy uninterrupted coverage of events like Wimbledon, while music fans can see events such as Glastonbury in much greater detail.

BBC Choice also offers extra programming for viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

'Behind the scenes'


[ image: New equipment is needed to see digital TV]
New equipment is needed to see digital TV
Head of Programming Katharine Everett said: "We want BBC Choice to be a friendly channel, to give additional value to viewers, to take them behind the scenes of the BBC and give them a chance to participate in the channel."

The station is one of four initially offered free on BBC Digital - with existing services, BBC One, BBC Two and BBC News 24 also available.


BBC Media Correspondent Torin Douglas reports on the new channel
Although the 24-hour news service began broadcasting last year, BBC Two was the last general station launched by the corporation in 1964.

News 24 also started using new technology and had few viewers at its start.

Birth of digital era


[ image: Sir John Birt: Just the start]
Sir John Birt: Just the start
BBC Director General Sir John Birt says this is just the start of the digital era at the BBC.

BBC Learning will launch next year and start using the greater text and interactive services on offer with digital broadcasting.

Sir John rejects those critics who say extra channels are a waste of time and licence-payers' money.

"The BBC has always been a pioneer of technology," he said.

"The BBC's role in the digital age will be the same as in analogue. We will bring new services to our licence payers, to deepen their satisfaction, to unleash our best talents and show the world what we can do."

Still a mystery to many

It seems many in the UK simply do not understand what is being called the "digital revolution".

A survey by GfK Marketing Services found only three-quarters of the adult population had even heard of digital television.

Of those, 58% said they did not understand it and 71% said they were unlikely to invest in receiving equipment in the next year.



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