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Saturday, 2 March, 2002, 19:04 GMT
BBC's channel Four debuts
Surrealissimo is an early BBC Four highlight
Surrealissimo: An early BBC Four highlight
BBC Four, the corporation's new arts and culture channel, launched on Saturday evening.

The new station, which replaces BBC Knowledge, will run from 1900 to 0100 GMT nightly and is one of the corporation's three new non-subscription digital TV channels.

The other two are channels for children - CBBC for children aged six to 13, and CBeebies for those under six.

Along with arts programmes, the channel will show documentaries and programmes covering science, history, news, debates and music.


It (BBC Four) will bring you performances that you've read about and wanted to see, and create compelling productions of its own

Roly Keating, BBC Four controller

BBC Four's first evening was broadcast simultaneously on BBC Two.

Meanwhile, the corporation's plans for BBC Three - its digital youth channel - remain under review by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Initial plans for the channel, which would replace BBC Choice, were rejected by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell last year because they were not "distinctive" enough.

Ms Jowell is now considering a renewed application for BBC Three submitted by the corporation in January, along with the results of a public consultation on the channel. She will make a final decision in due course.

'Compelling'

BBC Four Controller Roly Keating described his channel as a "classic, mixed-genre public service channel with a twist".

The twist, he said, is that it puts arts and culture at the centre of the schedule.

BBC Four will highlight foreign films including A One and A Two
BBC Four will highlight foreign films including A One and A Two

"Each evening you might drop in to enjoy the best in contemporary documentary, music, theatre or international cinema," he said.

"It will bring you performances that you've read about and wanted to see, and create compelling productions of its own."

BBC Four launched with a documentary entitled The Man Who Destroyed Everything, about the performance artist Michael Landy.

Last year, shoppers in London's Oxford Street watched as Landy and a team of assistants reduced all his possessions to dust in a shop window in an exhibition entitled Breakdown.

UK first

Another highlight of the first night was an arts drama-documentary entitled Surrealissimo, starring Ewan Bremner, Stephen Fry and Katrin Cartlidge.

George Alagiah
George Alagiah presents the news on BBC Four
Over the weeks to come, BBC Four will broadcast for the first time Ian Curteis's The Falklands Play, which was abandoned by the BBC in the mid-80s.

There will also be a series on the Brit Art movement featuring many of the scene's biggest names.

The channel will also have the UK's first nightly news bulletin dedicated solely to foreign news, fronted by anchorman George Alagiah.

An estimated 180 million homes in 200 countries will be able to view the foreign news bulletin which will present the day's significant global stories.

See also:

14 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Interactive art launches BBC Four
14 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Picture gallery: BBC Four
20 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
BBC children's channels unveiled
20 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
40m for BBC children's channels
09 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Man 'destroys' life for art
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