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“Important But Not Overpowering Presence in the Digital Future” for BBC, Decides Government

News, 14 September 2001


The British government yesterday gave a conditional green light to the British Broadcasting Corporation’s £300 million ($440m) digital TV and radio development plan.

This includes services for pre-school and pre-teen audiences plus BBC4, a channel covering the arts, science, philosophy, history and current affairs, seventy per cent of which must be of UK/European origin. The European content of the pre-school channel has been set even higher at 90%, and pre-teen output at 75%. Five digital radio channels were also approved.

But it isn’t roses all the way for the BBC. It’s much vaunted populist BBC3 channel targeting the 16-34 group got the thumbs-down. Ruled culture secretary Tessa Jowell: “The BBC still has not made the case for BBC3. It was not clear that its proposals were truly distinctive in an already crowded market.”

The refusal was greeted with muted jubilation from the UK’s commercial broadcasting sector – including Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB – which has lobbied vociferously over several months against any involvement of the public service broadcaster in the digital battlefield, and especially in the lucrative youth sector. The BBC declared itself “surprised and naturally disappointed”.

In her keynote speech last night to the annual conference of the Royal Television Society in Cambridge, Jowell said: “The BBC is big but not over-mighty. It should have an important but not over-powering presence in the digital future; a presence not only shaped by the competition, but which also helps shape the competition as the two interact.”

News source: Financial Times