Cautious greeting to BBC3

Cautious greeting to BBC3

Dyke: faces restrictions imposed by Jowell as he prepares to launch BBC3

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, commercial broadcasters and advertisers have given a cautious reception to the go-ahead for BBC3 finally given by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell this week. But have expressed doubts over the channel's chance of survival under the regulations imposed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

BBC3, which will be aimed at the youth market and launches in the new year on all of the digital TV platforms, will have to adhere to 12 strict regulations laid down by Jowell as the price of her approval of the channel. The 12 points are designed to ensure BBC3l maintains a strong public service focus and does not compete directly with commercial broadcasters.

ISBA welcomed the restrictions, which require the BBC to ensure 80% of the content carried by the new channel is "genuinely new to TV" and develop new and "untried" talent.

As well as having to ensure the exclusive and new nature of most of its programming, BBC 3 will be allowed to spend only 10% of its £97m programming budget on content produced outside the EU.

The decision over the launch of BBC3 has been one of the most troublesome for the DCMS. The matter has been in consultation for more than 18 months, and the BBC has submitted two revised proposals for the channel.

BBC director general Greg Dyke said: "This has been a tough decision for the Secretary of State and, looking back, I think she was right to push us to define the channel more clearly."

Commercial broadcasters have lobbied Jowell over the past year over concerns that BBC3 would steal audiences from channels such as Channel 4, Channel 5, E4 and MTV, which, they claim, already serve the audience that BBC3 is now gunning for. 

BBC director of marketing and communications Andy Duncan said: "I can understand the nervousness in the current market but I think the impact on the wider market will be limited."

Carat broadcasting director Mike Jarvis said: "I don't think this should be happening at all. I think it's a compromising fudge. I doubt that BBC3 will succeed with those restrictions - they won't be able to compete
with existing content on other channels."

C5 deputy chief executive and director of sales Nick Milligan is also sceptical about the channel's chances.

"BBC3 is going to be a nightmare for Greg Dyke because of all the conditions that have been laid down," he said.

BBC3's £97m programming budget for the coming year, which compares to C5's budget last year of £150m and Channel 4's £425m, will have to fill the channel's broadcasting hours of 7pm to 4am.

Walker Media's TV buying manager Lucas Cridland said: "That's a lot of money but there's a lot of time to fill. Unless they come up with some really winning programme ideas they'll fail to compete with the likes of E4."

A statement from ISBA said:"ISBA will be looking more closely at the mechanisms the Government intends to put in place to ensure that BBC3 adheres to the 12 conditions, and will ask Government whether Ofcom, the proposed single communications regulator, will now be given full authority to regulate BBC3."

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