UK culture secretary Tessa Jowell has told the British Broadcasting Corporation that proposals for its youth-oriented digital channel BBC3 need further work before they can be approved.

The plans have come under considerable fire from rival broadcasters, which argue that the publicly funded BBC should not be entering a market already well-served by the commercial sector [WAMN: 11-Feb-02].

Jowell told the Westminster Media Forum on Tuesday that BBC3 must remain a public service offering, aid Britain’s digital TV market and not unduly hurt commercial offerings.

However, the minister added that, after consultation with the commercial sector and the Independent Television Commission, she had sufficient evidence to suggest BBC3 would capture a higher audience share than estimated in the Beeb’s plans.

“I am concerned about saying yes to a bid that is too competitive,” Jowell commented, “especially as many commercial companies are currently feeling the squeeze from the biggest fall in advertising revenues in a decade.

“Now is not the time to impose a new, publicly funded service on a fragile and highly competitive market without being certain of the likely result. That is why I have asked the BBC and the ITC to clarify and, if possible, reconcile their different views of the competitive impact.”

Considerable reconciliation is needed – the BBC thinks the channel will cost commercial rivals only around £4 million in combined revenues, while the ITC puts the figure at £25m [WAMN: 06-Mar-02].

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff