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25/08/2000

BBC THREE AND BBC FOUR DIGITAL CHANNELS

DIRECTOR General Greg Dyke has confirmed that he wants to establish a new BBC Three and BBC Four as part of what is reported to be a seven-channel future in digital television.
Although it has not yet gone before the BBC’s Board of Governors or won the backing of the Secretary of State for Culture if Dyke succeeds in winning support for his multi-channel future for the BBC, the corporation will undergo an immense broadcasting change.
Digital television is expected to lead to the creation of perhaps hundreds of specialist channels.
The changes will mean that BBC1 will become more focused on mainstream entertainment and drama while retaining an element of news and current affairs.
BBC2 is expected to broadcast more specialised factual programmes such as some of the BBC’s current popular and on going and one off special series.
The BBC currently offers BBC Choice one of the three existing digital television channels, which will be relaunched as BBC Three. It will be aimed at a younger market, which the BBC has found increasingly difficult to capture.
BBC Knowledge, the learning channel, is planned to become BBC Four, which is thought will combine elements of BBC Radio Three, Radio Four and the current BBC Two. The fifth channel will be the rolling news network BBC News 24.
Unconfirmed media reports ahead of Dyke's speech suggest that the third and fourth channels will be given over during the day to two services aimed at children of different age groups.
It is unclear whether either of these children's channels will be part of Mr Dyke's mooted expansion of the BBC's educational output.
Mr Dyke's plans for a multi-channel BBC were first disclosed at the Banff Television festival in Canada in June this year.
There, the BBC's director of television Mark Thompson said that public service TV had to change. He said: “Right now at the BBC, we're engaged in a fundamental review of our TV networks, the most far-reaching and challenging we've ever undertaken,
“The object is to create a suite of channels which live up to the ideals which the BBC was created to promote, but which also make sense in modern digital homes.”
With the launch of the news and sport BBC Radio 5Live in the 1990s, the BBC has met the needs of all licence fee payers.
Thompson said. “If we can find the funds, and if we can convince the BBC's governors and the wider world that it's the right idea. We should devote an entire digital channel to serious music and the arts, and to the world of ideas, in science, politics and philosophy."
Speaking in a BBC Online live chat forum in August, the controller of BBC One Peter Salmon set out the argument for a multi-channel BBC. He said: “We've got to prepare for the digital age. Pretty soon there'll be hundreds of channels and outlets available to our viewers. We have to prepare new strategies for all our channels to meet these new challenges. But BBC One will remain a bluechip, accessible, something for everyone, public service channel.”
Commercial broadcasters feel that the BBC do not have any right to try and penetrate the multi-channel age of digital television, the unique licence fee arrangements gives the corporation an unfair commercial advantage in a digital age.
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