Britain’s Channel 4 Joins Channel 5 to Hammer BBC3

30 January 2002

The UK’s two youth oriented free-to-air commercial channels 4 and 5 have joined forces to hammer BBC3, the new digital channel targeting the 16-34 age group planned by the state-owned British Broadcasting Corporation.

Channel 4 director of programmes Tim Gardam, speaking Tuesday at a London conference, charged that the BBC's revamped proposals for BBC3 were “more difficult to justify the more they are scrutinised”.

The BBC venture received an initial thumbs-down from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on the grounds that its content too closely matched that provided by the commercial sector. However, the corporation was allowed to rethink its plans and came up with a £90m a year format rumoured to include a mere 91 hours annually of news and current affairs.

This, said Gardamn, compared unfavourably with his channel's five hundred hours. Likewise, BBC3 will air only thirty hours of educational programming yearly whereas Channel 4 claims one thousand hours.

“The [BBC] application includes an independent assessment of the impact of BBC3, which makes it clear that BBC3 is setting out to undermine the ability of Channel 4 to raise the revenue to fund its public service remit,” Gardam continued.

“It says it aims to take 5% of Channel 4’s audience in multichannel homes and 15% of E4’s audience. If the BBC's own analysis is correct it aims to take tens of millions of pounds of advertising revenue that Channel 4 spends on its public service broadcasting.”

The advent of BBC3 should not be seen as a major injection of cash into the UK TV economy, argued Gardam, its impact being “likely to reduce programme budgets for other commercial sector broadcasters”.

Gardam's speech mirrors C4’s formal submission to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

News source: BrandRepublic (UK)