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U.K. government OKs BBC3

Public service emphasis, little U.S. fare

LONDON — BBC3, the BBC’s new digital TV youth channel, was greenlit by the U.K. government Tuesday, one year after the pubcaster’s original proposals were rejected for being down-market and frivolous.

But Tessa Jowell, secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, has given the channel strict public service requirements such as plenty of news, current affairs and documentary programming.

BBC3, which will replace the existing BBC Choice, is expected to launch in early 2003 and will target a 25 to 34-year-old demographic with original programming rather than repeats from BBC1 and BBC2. It will be budgeted at £93 million ($143 million).

Independent boost

British producers will be rubbing their hands with glee as BBC3 will have to commission 80% of its programming and 25% must come from the independent sector.

The channel will also be prevented from acquiring large amounts of U.S. fare. Instead, the schedule must consist of 90% European-made programming spanning drama, entertainment, news, current affairs, education, music, the arts, and science.

Jowell said: “I believe the revised format will see BBC3 emerge as a real powerhouse for new talent, with which the independent sector will have a strong voice. It will be a first for British broadcasting.”

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