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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 22:22 GMT
Channel 4 challenges BBC Three
BBC Director General Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke expects BBC Three to break new ground
Channel 4 has urged the government to throw out plans for a new BBC digital youth channel.

Tim Gardam, Channel 4's director of programmes, said on Tuesday the proposed BBC Three would hit his channel's viewing figures and its public service broadcasting.

Channel 4 has formally asked Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell not to approve the proposals.

But the BBC has denied its new channel, which would replace BBC Choice, would duplicate any commercial channels.

The more one scrutinises BBC Three's renewed application to the secretary of state, the more difficult it seems to justify

Tim Gardam
Channel 4

Ms Jowell rejected the initial plan for BBC Three when its was originally submitted last year because it was not "distinctive" enough, a move which surprised BBC director general Greg Dyke.

Channel 4 originally supported the BBC's right to pursue a digital strategy.

But Gardam said the renewed BBC Three application was more likely to entice Channel 4's younger audience and reduce advertising revenue, which it partly spends on public service broadcasting.

Speaking at a London conference on the future of public service broadcasting, Mr Gardam said: "The BBC has every right to be competitive.

'Quality drama'

"Channel 4 was, after all, set up in part to compete with the BBC.

"Public service broadcasting is about creative competition.

"Yet it is also about complementarity; and the more one scrutinises BBC Three's renewed application to the secretary of state, the more difficult it seems to justify."

But a BBC spokesman said: "We don't believe that BBC Three will take revenues and thereby damage investment by the commercial sector in UK production.
Tessa Jowell
Jowell wants a distinctive station

"Indeed, we think that BBC Three's success will encourage more investment by the commercial sector in UK programmes."

He said that BBC Three's budget would be spent on "making a major investment in high quality, innovative and distinctive British programming".

The BBC has promised intelligent new drama, in the style of This Life and Cops, with a high output of news, arts and education aimed at a 25 to 34 age group.

Public consultation by Ms Jowell over the second proposal was due to finish last Friday and she will now make her decision in due course.

'Rob viewers'

Mr Gardam said BBC Three was "setting out to undermine the ability of Channel 4 to raise the revenue to fund its public service remit".

He thinks the proposed service would mainly target a younger audience that would rob Channel 4 of 5% of its viewers and its digital entertainment offshoot E4 of 15%.

And he said BBC Three's proposed output of news, current affairs and education was far below Channel 4's.

See also:

28 Jan 02 | TV and Radio
BBC on top in ratings war
07 Dec 01 | TV and Radio
Jowell opens BBC Three debate
22 Jan 02 | TV and Radio
Dyke defends arts on BBC
10 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
Dyke welcomes interactive services
10 Sep 01 | TV and Radio
BBC digital: Commercial concerns
04 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Record investment for BBC
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