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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Yentob defends arts coverage
Alan Yentob
Alan Yentob presented a five-hour series on Leonardo

The BBC's increase in TV arts coverage is not linked to the corporation's bid to renew its public charter, BBC director Alan Yentob has said.

Yentob, the BBC's director of drama, entertainment and children's programmes, said on Tuesday the BBC had to do more than simply improve arts programming to ensure the charter was renewed.

"If we thought that just improving arts coverage was going to get the licence fee back we would be foolish. It's a big challenge doing that and we have to earn the right to be there," Mr Yentob told the Financial Times.

"When a big moment like charter renewal comes up, you have to sit down and think about it. I would not confuse this with the BBC owning up 12 or 18 months ago to not having got the arts right," he said.

The BBC has been criticised over its television arts coverage since Greg Dyke took over as Director General in 2000.

Last November, opera director Sir Jonathan Miller said: "Unless you have a programme about how to decorate your house or chop up vegetables, it is impossible to get anyone in the BBC to commission your programme."

'Changing the DNA'

"I have to acknowledge that up to six months ago it [arts] wasn't coming on air," Mr Yentob said.

"It happened while the BBC was changing the DNA of the channel, investing in drama and changing the time of the news," he said.

TV Licence
The BBC funds programming through its licence fee

Mr Yentob has appeared on screen presenting a three-part look at the art and inventions of Leonardo da Vinci.

"In the last three months, not only has the BBC given five hours of airtime to Leonardo in peak time, we've also done programmes on George Eliot and Jane Austen," he said.

Mr Yentob said one of the biggest changes in arts coverage was a new strand appearing on BBC One from June, Imagine.

Imagine is to tackle subjects ranging from Charles Saatchi to John Mortimer and rap music.

BBC Two announced last year it was going to cut back on lifestyle programming and feature more arts coverage.

The BBC's public charter comes up for renewal in 2006.

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