Curtain falls on Artsworld

Pay TV channel to go dark at end of month

LONDON — Artsworld, the U.K. cultural pay TV channel launched 18 months ago, will announce its closure today. The loss- making venture, chaired by ex-Channel 4 founder Sir Jeremy Isaacs, will cease broadcasting at the end of the month with the loss of up to 25 jobs.

Artsworld bowed on Sky Digital with a pledge to fill the cultural gap left by the main terrestrial broadcasters, particularly the BBC.

For around $10 a month, subscribers receive five hours of programs a night, much of it performance-based fare embracing classical music, jazz, opera and dance.

It needed less than 500,000 subscribers to break even, but had managed to sign up only 100,000.

Sources blame its demise on an ever more powerful and well-funded BBC, which recently launched its own digital free-to-air culture channel, BBC 4.

“The shareholders simply got cold feet,” said an Artsworld insider. “Government policy has allowed the BBC to become too dominant. The stated objective is to foster diversity but the reverse is happening as commercial players are squeezed out.”

The pubcaster has always denied that BBC4 was in direct competition with Artsworld, whose backers include the Guardian Media Group.

4’s controller Roly Keating has insisted that his channel’s arrival would improve Artsworld’s prospects by raising the profile of cultural broadcasting in the UK.

The channel’s failure adds another casualty to the growing number of niche nets that have folded in the U.K. in the past year, victims of the media recession and an over-subscribed market.

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