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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 13:35 GMT
EastEnders boost for BBC Three
Jack Ryder as Jamie Mitchell in BBC One's EastEnders
Jamie's death has been a strong storyline pre-Christmas
Hit BBC One soap EastEnders is to be screened first on digital channel BBC Three for the channel's launch, in an attempt to boost viewing figures.

The channel launches on Sunday 9 February at 1900GMT and for a two-week period it will screen episodes of the hit soap a day before BBC One.

The move had been rumoured for months but was confirmed by the BBC on Tuesday. The channel will also be shown simultaneously on BBC Two on launch night.

Judi Dench
BBC Four's Absolute Hell: Viewing figures "improving"

The BBC's director of television, Jana Bennett said: "The BBC is committed to driving digital take-up and that is why I am happy to bring the strength of BBC One and BBC Two to help show viewers what else is on offer from the BBC."

BBC Three, which replaces BBC Choice, is the last of the BBC's digital TV channels to launch. It follows children's channels CBBC and CBeebies and BBC Four, the arts channel that replaced BBC Knowledge.

BBC Four has not made great strides in viewing figures since its launch, according to unofficial viewing figures.

The arts channel has on occasion attracted as little as 3,000 viewers for its top shows.

But the BBC said BBC Four ratings were improving steadily and the viewing figues did not reflect the real picture.

Strict conditions

"Last week was BBC Four's most successful to date, with 1.8 million people tuning in to the channel," said spokesman Roly Keating.

"It looks as if Freeview has been a real boost for BBC Four. Ever since it launched we've seen a steady increase in viewing."

BBC Three will focus on drama and entertainment, but more than a third of programmes will cover news, current affairs, education, music and arts.

Rivals such as Channel 4 had criticised the government's decision to approve the new channel after it was rejected for not being distinctive enough in September 2001.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell imposed a strict set of conditions on the channel when she approved it for launch a year later.


BBC Three debut

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07 Nov 02 | Entertainment
17 Sep 02 | Entertainment
11 Jul 02 | Entertainment
06 Mar 02 | Entertainment
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