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EDITIONS
Monday, 1 July, 2002, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
BBC Three boosted by research
Johnny Vaughan
Johnny Vaughan is a mainstay of BBC Choice
The launch of digital channel BBC Three looks to have moved a step closer after a report said its impact on commercial channels would not be as adverse as some feared.

The research, carried out by the Independent Television Commission (ITC), is a boost for the BBC, which is waiting for the approval of Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.

The minister delayed her decision on whether to give the planned channel the green light until she could be sure BBC Three would not have a large adverse impact on the commercial sector.

Broadcasters such as BSkyB and Channel 4 have complained the proposed channel would hit the advertising revenue of Sky One and E4.

BBC Four
BBC Four launched in 2002
The BBC has promised the channel's aim is to break new formats, and focus on "intelligent new entertainment and drama" while maintaining its values of public service broadcasting.

It would replace the current digital channel BBC Choice.


We believe BBC Three will also make an important contribution to driving digital take-up

BBC statement

The ITC's report said the channel would gain a 2% share of the audience and would result in a 7m loss in advertising revenue to commercial channels, if the BBC stuck to its proposals.

"At these levels, we believe that the impact spread across commercial channels could be manageable," said the report, compiled for the culture secretary.

But it warned that if the BBC pursued a more aggressive and competitive approach to the channel then the impact could be much greater.

Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell will make the final decision
The research said the loss in revenue to commercial rivals could climb as high as 15m, but added that the BBC had pledged it would stick to its plans for the channel.

In a statement responding to the research, which was carried out last year but released only on Monday, the BBC said it was "pleased" by the findings.

"We note their belief that 'there is a strong public service rationale for offering high-quality, distinctive, UK-produced programmes to the target audience'," it said.

The ITC recommended that the BBC should give a number of assurances so that the impact on the commercial sector would not be intensified.

New talent

They are:

  • Commitments to develop new talent in every genre, with at least six new talent initiatives per year
  • Commitments to new programming in news, current affairs, education and music and the arts
  • Commitments to drama and entertainment programmes which are "risk-taking and innovative"
  • A commitment to about 90% of UK programming and 80% programming made specifically for the channel

    The BBC said it had already made the commitments publicly and would keep to them.

    The statement added: "We know that the BBC governors and the secretary of state will make very sure that we do.

    "We believe BBC Three will also make an important contribution to driving digital take-up, especially among people who don't want to pay a subscription, at a time when this is much needed."

    BBC digital channels
    BBC Four
    CBeebies
    CBBc
    BBC Choice
    The corporation said it hoped for a decision from the culture secretary soon.

    A spokesman for Channel 4 said: "The ITC research supports what we and other commercial broadcasters have been saying all along - that BBC Three could have a disproportionate impact on its commercial competitors."

    The BBC's plans for BBC Three were rejected in September last year because the minister felt they were not "distinctive" enough.

    Plans for BBC Four and two children's channel were given the go-ahead, however.

    In March this year Ms Jowell said she would delay her decision until she was confident about the impact of the channel.


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