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01/09/2000

BBC DIGS DEEP TO FUND REGIONAL DIGITAL ERA

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BBC Director-General Greg Dyke has announced a portfolio of BBC channels backed by a massive hike in year-on-year spend to improve BBC programmes and services in the regions.
The announcement, made during the delivery of the MacTaggart Lecture at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, commits the BBC to an increased £480 million-a-year spend by 2002.
Dyke pledged to devolve more power to the Nations and English Regions. Proposing to return control of production facilities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to the national controllers, Dyke will increase the budgets in the Nations and English Regions by £50 million-a-year over the next two years.
He said: "I believe the responsibility for reflecting the UK in all its many forms has gradually shifted from ITV to the BBC over the years. It will be a central plank of the BBC's purpose in the years ahead."
Dyke also confirmed that BBC ONE would be moving the BBC 'News at Nine' to 10pm next year.
The planned portfolio of seven services across five publicly funded BBC channels will feature two new daytime children's services - one for pre-school children and a second for children between five and thirteen.
The total portfolio will include BBC ONE, BBC TWO and new channels BBC THREE and FOUR, which will evolve out of the current digital channels BBC CHOICE and BBC KNOWLEDGE, plus BBC News 24 and the two new children's channels - running in the daytime on BBC THREE and FOUR. All the channels will eventually be available to every licence fee payer.
The Director-General said that the aim was to make BBC ONE the gold standard of mainstream television, and more than half of the money to be spent on the BBC overall will go on improving BBC ONE and BBC TWO.
Dyke underlined the importance of universal access, underpinned by the licence fee, and again expressed concern about the danger of the emergence of a "digital underclass". He said that the BBC was an essential glue that could bind society together in the digital age. He further warned that increasing pressure on commercial broadcasters' revenue streams would mean that responsibility for a new era of great British production would fall to the BBC.
"Our channel strategy is a means of achieving this - a way of commissioning, producing and broadcasting British programmes of all kinds on a mix of channels which will make sense to audiences in the digital age," he said.
On his decision to move the main evening news bulletin to 10pm, Dyke said: "Editorially, we believe it is a better slot. But the main reason for the move is that we believe more people will be able to watch it. It's as simple as that."
Subject to public consultation and DCMS approval, the plans will be funded by the recent licence fee increase, increased commercial revenue and significant savings inside the BBC.
These savings will aim to reduce the amount spent on running the BBC by around 10 per cent over the next three years.
By 2002/3 the BBC will be spending an additional £480 million a year on programmes and services.
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