BBC3 gets the go-ahead

The BBC was finally given the green light today for its digital youth channel after months of delays.

The BBC was finally given the green light today for its digital youth channel after months of delays.

But Britain's Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell surrounded it with the “toughest conditions ever issued” to a new station.

The corporation was warned that it must pack its schedules with high quality, specially commissioned shows.

The channel - to replace BBC Choice - was rejected by the British government a year ago because it was not “distinctive” enough.

In March the BBC suffered another setback when Ms Jowell announced she was “concerned” about the impact on other stations.

She said today the channel must be “genuinely distinctive, genuinely public service and genuinely innovative.” If so it would be “powerhouse” for new talent.

BBC3 will be reviewed after two years to ensure it is sticking to the rules set down.

Among the conditions for the station, aimed at 25 to 34-year-olds, are that 80% of its shows must be specially commissioned for the channel and new to TV in a bid to develop talent.

Any programmes that are bought-in must not already be well established - a move to stop the corporation placing hit shows on the channel in an attempt to drive up viewer numbers.

BBC3 must also:

:: Give a mixed schedule of programmes with drama, entertainment, news, current affairs, education, music, the arts, science and coverage of international issues throughout the year;

:: Have 90% of its shows made in Europe, to stop a reliance on buying-in United States hits;

:: Not compete for the audience for similar shows on BBC1 and BBC2.

The corporation was given the go-ahead for a raft of new digital services on radio and TV last year, but the projected output for BBC3 was thought to be too similar to other youth channels.

Channel 4 was aggrieved at the plans, believing they would have an adverse impact on the audience for its main channel and digital offshoot E4.

Research by the Independent Television Commission and the BBC has helped to allay British government fears about the effect on rival services.

Announcing her approval for the service, Ms Jowell said: “The BBC has now made the case for BBC3.

“It has been a long, sometimes arduous process, but the negotiations have led to the toughest set of conditions ever issued in giving the green light to a TV channel.

“I am determined BBC3 should be a distinctive public service channel that is not competing with what is already out there in a vigorous market place. The channel will be reviewed after two years to ensure this is the case.

“I believe the revised format will see BBC3 emerge as a real powerhouse for new talent, within which the independent sector will have a strong voice.

“It will bring genuine public service broadcasting to a younger audience - offering them high quality drama, news and current affairs. It will be a first for British broadcasting.

“The channel will be diverse but accessible. It is not enough to just broadcast a wide range of high quality programmes. Our conditions mean these programmes will be accessible to their audience during peak viewing hours.

“This is a something for something deal. The BBC gets the go ahead for BBC3 and in return viewers get a new channel which is genuinely distinctive, genuinely public service and genuinely innovative.”

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