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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
BBC Three gets go-ahead
Johnny Vaughan
Johnny Vaughan is lined up to appear on BBC Three
The government has approved the BBC Three digital TV channel for young people, but with some of the strictest public service requirements ever issued to a television station.

BBC Three is likely to be launched in early 2003 and will replace the corporation's existing digital channel, BBC Choice and is aimed at the 25-34 age group.

The original proposals were rejected by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell last year, after she said they were insufficiently distinctive from similar commercial channels.

60seconds launch presenters Tazeen Ahmad and Sumit Bose
More news will feature on BBC Three
BBC Three will now go ahead but with the "toughest conditions ever issued", Ms Jowell said.

Unlike BBC Choice, the new channel will not use many repeats from BBC One and BBC Two but will concentrate on original programming, with the vast majority made specially for the channel.

The emphasis on new talent will also carry over to bought-in programming, with the channel prevented from using shows already established elsewhere.

It will also be prevented from buying excessive volumes of American shows, with 90% of all programmes coming from Europe.

Its schedule will now include drama, entertainment, news, current affairs, education, music, the arts, science and coverage of international issues throughout the year.

Arduous process

Ms Jowell has also forbidden the channel from competing with BBC One and Two, but the minister said the channel could be "genuinely distinctive, genuinely public service and genuinely innovative" and a "powerhouse".

"It has been a long, sometimes arduous process, but the negotiations have led to the toughest set of conditions ever issued in giving the green light to a TV channel," she said.

"I am determined BBC Three should be a distinctive public service channel that is not competing with what is already out there in a vigorous market place.

Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke welcomed the decision
"The channel will be reviewed after two years to ensure this is the case.

"I believe the revised format will see BBC Three emerge as a real powerhouse for new talent, within which the independent sector will have a strong voice. It will be a first for British broadcasting.

"This is a something for something deal. The BBC gets the go ahead for BBC Three and in return viewers get a new channel which is genuinely distinctive, genuinely public service and genuinely innovative."

There will be a review of the channel's performance after two years.

Digital age

BBC chairman Gavyn Davies welcomed the decision, saying: "She has laid out some demanding conditions in the approval but the governors agree that BBC Three must be a high quality and distinctive public service channel and we shall ensure that those conditions are met.

"BBC Three completes the BBC's portfolio of TV channels for the digital age and will help promote digital take up."

Director general Greg Dyke said: "This has been a tough decision for the secretary of state and, looking back, I think she was right to push us to define the channel more clearly.

Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell imposed tough conditions
"The new channel will be launched in the New Year, and I'm confident that it will bring a new public service concept to this currently underserved audience."

The channel has been opposed by competing commercial broadcasters like Channel 4, which fears BBC Three will damage its own digital channel E4.

But recent research by a television watchdog suggested its impact on other channels' audience share and advertising revenue would not be severe.

Ms Jowell's provisos mean it will not be able to copy any of E4's tactics such as buying in American hits like Friends and giving them their first outing on the digital channel to push up viewing figures.

The BBC will also not have the option of poaching other established, imported shows.

An Independent Television Commission said BBC Three would probably only take a 2% share of the audience and would result in a 7m loss in advertising revenue to commercial channels.

The ITC said only if the BBC pursued a more aggressive approach would other channels be likely to suffer.


BBC Three debut

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01 Jul 02 | Entertainment
10 Oct 01 | Entertainment
13 Feb 02 | Entertainment
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