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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK
BBC Three: Stuart Murphy took your questions.

  Click here to watch the forum.  

  • Click here to read the transcript


    The government has now approved the BBC Three digital TV channel for young people.

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

    BBC Three will now go ahead with the "toughest conditions ever issued" for a television channel, 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 being made specially for the channel.

    Do you think there was a need for a channel targeting 25-34 year olds? Do you think broadcasting really needs a new channel? What will make you watch BBC Three? What do you want to see on BBC Three?

    Stuart Murphy, Controller for BBC Three took your questions in a live interactive forum. A video recording will follow shortly.


    Transcript


    Newshost:

    Stuart welcome, thank you for joining us. Let's start with this basic question from Nicky Findlay, London, UK: What can we expect to see on BBC Three?


    Stuart Murphy:

    On BBC Three you'll get a whole mix of genres. So unlike the other channels in digital, they'll be a whole mix, it won't just be one particular thing. They'll be quite a lot of entertainment and new drama - 90% of the channel will be British and 80% of the channel will be made just for BBC Three. It won't be programmes from BBC1 and BBC2 that are repeated. As well as that you'll get 30 half hours of current affairs a year - a half an hour of current affairs a fortnight, you'll get news in peak. So the channel that transmits that from 7 p.m. until 4 a.m. will have news every single night on the hour every hour as well as a full 15 minute news in peak. They'll be 50 hours of music and arts a year. So you can expect to see documentaries on architecture, on design, on artists, on photography and there's 30 hours of education a year which is quite a tricky one square, I think, for a younger audience.


    Newshost:

    How are you going to do that?


    Stuart Murphy:

    Well, someone like me, I'm in the age group, I feel nervous whenever anyone tells me they want to educate me. So I think it will be programmes that are rich in information and try and point to issues that this audience are going through - like mortgages and parental divorce.


    Newshost:

    It's going to be quite difficult to carve out a niche for this channel isn't it because most of the digital channels you can get these days - if you have digital television - are very definitely targeted at a particular kind of audience and a particular kind of programming? It's not very fashionable to launch a general interest channel doing a bit of everything.


    Stuart Murphy:

    I'd actually argue that makes it quite easy to carve out a niche because all the other channels are themed. There's no other channel at all that would run news on the hour, every hour or current affairs, partly because it's such a commercially difficult thing to get right. So potentially on BBC Three, you might be watching a big entertainment show with a new presenter or a new comedian and then have to go hard into a news bulletin and then go into a documentary on arts or something on the problems of depression. It's very, very tricky when there are so many channels in the digital universe to make sure people know exactly what your channel is about.


    Newshost:

    Ben Wilcock, UK asks: As a person in the middle of the target age range, whose personal focus is carving out a career, I want to know whether this is likely to be reflected in the programmes - like business news and documentaries and things about employment and jobs?


    Stuart Murphy:

    I'd be quite happy about doing things on that if I were running BBC Three. Business is a really rich area for us to cover. I personally think this audience are obsessed with money, not for its own sake but probably because of the power that it brings. So I'd quite like to do something that shows an audience how to deal with the Stock Market for instance. This audience are quite savvy about money but I don't think savvy about the institutions that create money. So I don't think they're familiar with how merchant banking works for instance, so I'd quite like to do something on the Stock Market. I'd quite like to do something on interest rates because I think I'm probably as ignorant as the next person about mortgage rates, even though I've got a mortgage like most of the audience. So I'm not going to be shy of getting fairly serious on business.


    Newshost:

    How are you going to afford all of this because it's expensive making lots of original programming, lot of different kinds? Malcolm St. Pierre asks: How will the BBC be able to afford the huge costs and you making predominantly home-based programmes without, for instance, viewers having to suffer a hike in the licence fee? How are you going to afford it?


    Stuart Murphy:

    It's tricky isn't it because if an audience wants new British productions and research has shown that this is what an audience wants from BBC Three, it's always going to cost. So to buy a concert for instance of Robbie Williams - a pre-made concert - would probably cost about 5,000 - to make it probably costs about 80,000 - a starting point of 80,000. I think the latest licensee settlement from a few years ago was fairly generous by all accounts and just the way Greg Dyke and John Smith, the head of finance, have split the money, they've made sure BBC Three has got 100 million to spend. So as Tessa Jowell said today, it's got huge resources behind it.

    But I'm keenly aware that in digital, which has lower viewing than analogue, we need to make sure partly that there are quite a lot of opportunities for people to see the output - so we might show programmes more than once - but also I'm quite keen to make sure some of the shows run on BBC1 and BBC2. So it's not just in a digital domain.


    Newshost:

    But Tessa Jowell's been very careful to say that there mustn't be too much of that - 80% of the programmes have got to be made especially for BBC Three - they've got to be new to television - you can't have too much overlap with BBC1 and BBC2.


    Stuart Murphy:

    The point she was saying, I think, was that BBC Three shouldn't take programmes from BBC1 and BBC2.


    Newshost:

    So it's ok if they start on BBC Three and they move to BBC1?


    Stuart Murphy:

    Absolutely. The key thing is that 80% of the programmes originate on BBC Three. If BBC1 and BBC2 want to take them, I think that's just extra value for licence fee payers and I'm all for that.


    Newshost:

    What about traffic in the other direction. A question from the Newsroom. John Whitney in the BBC Television Newsroom badly wants to know are you going to carry on with Eastenders repeat that's now on BBC Choice on BBC Three?


    Stuart Murphy:

    Well I'm fairly keen to do that but I only heard about BBC Three this morning so the details of the schedule are as strange to me as they are to John Whitney. But yes, I'd be quite keen, audiences seem to like it so it seems to make sense.


    Newshost:

    A 100 million budget you were saying - sounds a lot but actually it's small beer compared with say BBC1 which is about 800 million and ITV which is 720 million. You're going to be fairly stretched aren't you?


    Stuart Murphy:

    Yes - but 100 million seems fair. We're transmitting from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., so it's not 24 hours a day, so we don't have the same commitments in that sense as BBC1 and BBC2 and the type of programming we're making isn't cheap - drama isn't cheap which is why a lot of digital channels or commercial channels don't go for it in the way that the BBC do. So I think 100 million if we're canny about it we should make it go quite a long way.


    Newshost:

    Mark Wilson, UK asks: When BBC Three launches will it be blighted with this plethora of onscreen logos that currently blights BBC Choice?


    Stuart Murphy:

    Yes, probably.


    Newshost:

    What's the justification for that? They get in the way don't they?


    Stuart Murphy:

    I don't know if they do. You're never going to please everyone all of the time and one of the things you've got to do in my position is make a decision on what stays and what doesn't. It's always going upset some people and there's a particular vocal group who dislike the dogs. The tricky thing is, lots of channels have got these dogs and we're in a new world with digital. I'm not sure with BBC Three what will and won't work. One of the things about BBC Three that Tessa Jowell said is it's got to have risk-taking, innovative remit. Now I'm not saying a dog in the top left is innovative and risk-taking - what I am saying is that the way people sample TV in the digital environment, I think, is probably fundamentally different than it is on analogue.


    Newshost:

    But everybody in digital has got an electronic programme guide that tells them what they're watching as they flick from channel to channel - why do you have to have the dog as well?


    Stuart Murphy:

    Because I think on some channels - say E4 for example, that runs Friends, Sky One runs Friends, Channel 4 runs Friends and when you're watching Friends, I think it's all part of that sophisticated overall marketing make-up of a channel to make them know comfortably what channel they're watching. I don't think it's too obtrusive but I would say that because I've decided it stays. But with all these things I'll try them out and if there are intelligent arguments being put forward, I'll think about it and try and do what's best for the audience.


    Newshost:

    Tim Wilson, London asks: Can you give some indication of what kind of education programmes BBC Three will be offering?


    Stuart Murphy:

    When you start to think about it, there's so much you could do. I'm pretty obsessed with that idea of second-wind education. I was at university ten years ago and most of the things I learnt at university, I've forgotten and I'm just starting to realise how ignorant I am. So it would be quite interesting to do something on languages and something about European culture.

    I'd be quite interested to do things on science. One of the things I'm quite keen to do is show the chemical reactions that go on inside your body when you smoke for instance or drink. I'd be quite interested to do something on Aids or cancer - one in four of us will get cancer and it shouldn't be a taboo. I'd be really interested in covering areas like that. They certainly won't be pseudo-education - we're going to address subjects face on and as I said earlier, not shy away from dealing with them seriously.


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