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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 17:54 GMT
BBC defends digital TV and radio
Little Britain
Comedy Little Britain has become one of BBC Three's biggest hits
No radical changes will be made to BBC digital TV and radio services, despite criticism from government-commissioned reviews, BBC governors have said.

The reviews concluded that low viewing figures meant BBC Three and Four were poor value for money and needed to become more mainstream.

But BBC chairman Michael Grade said innovation was as important as improving audience reach.

Governors said digital services must be given more time to develop.

'Remain distinctive'

The digital reviews, led by marketing professor Patrick Barwise and ex-Channel 4 TV boss Tim Gardam, published their findings in October.

They found that TV channels BBC Three, BBC Four, CBBC and pre-school children's channel CBeebies had "many strengths".

Digital radio stations such as the Asian Network, 1Xtra, 6 Music, and BBC7 needed to remain distinctive from commercial rivals to ensure a "healthy" market, it was concluded.

The board agrees that improved reach is a key ambition, but so too is quality, innovation and new programming
BBC chairman Michael Grade
"There is much in both reports that the governors endorse and we have already implemented some of the recommendations," said Mr Grade.

The governors were committed to ensuring each BBC service delivered "the best value to licence payers", he added, and they would continue to monitor their progress.

"The board agrees that improved reach is a key ambition, but so too is quality, innovation and new programming that improves programming choice to licence payers," Mr Grade said.

"It is that more challenging route we want our new services to follow."

'Real progress'

BBC Three's Flashmob: The Opera
BBC Three's Flashmob: The Opera was a critical success
BBC director of television Jana Bennett said: "We know there is still work to do to deliver programmes of even greater ambition and range to wider audiences, but we are making real progress."

She cited BBC Three comedy Little Britain and one-off show Flash Mob - The Opera, and Jonathan Miller's Brief History of Disbelief on BBC Four, as examples of successful BBC digital TV output.

It is gratifying that the report shares our belief that digital technology will transform the world of radio
Jenny Abramsky, BBC director of radio and music
"We support the view that it would not be in the interests of the audience to move BBC Three and BBC Four towards being more 'mainstream' channels," she added.

"To broaden them out would be to risk the core essence of these services, when we want to build on the channels' distinctiveness to grow their reputation and audiences."

Jenny Abramsky, BBC director of radio and music, said it was "still early days" for the corporation's digital radio services.

"I am pleased that the report acknowledges that they already have established their quality and distinctiveness," she said.

"The BBC has championed digital radio since its inception and it is gratifying that the report shares our belief that digital technology will transform the world of radio."


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