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U.K. digital push looms

BBC backlash begins

LONDON — The BBC’s commercial rivals are threatening legal action following reports that the U.K. government is about to greenlight the pubcaster’s digital TV expansion.

The long-delayed decision on the creation of a youth-skewed BBC3 and an arts-and-culture-oriented BBC4 is expected to come from Culture Minister Tessa Jowell at the Edinburgh TV Festival next week.

If the go-ahead is given, it will probably trigger a judicial review questioning the validity of the government’s decision.

Execs at digital channels including Nickelodeon, Disney, Fox Kids and Artsworld argue that allowing the BBC to proceed with its plans will seriously undermine the commercial sector, in particular kidvid.

The BBC, they add, has yet to properly address two key questions: whether the new services will be distinctive from those already on air and how the commercial sector will be affected.

Some observers believe a compromise that would limit the BBC’s kidvid ambitions is possible.

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