Dyke says BBC3 has future

 BBC director general Greg Dyke said he was "confident" that the plan for BBC3 channel would eventually get the go-ahead, despite Media Secretary Tessa Jowell’s decision to block it.

While the BBC was given approval for eight of its nine proposed services, Jowell said at the Royal Television Society Convention in Cambridge that the case for the channel, aimed at viewers aged 16 to 34, "has not been proven".

Although lobbying from commercial channels failed to prevent two new children’s services being given the green light, Jowell said the BBC had failed to convince her that its proposals for a youth channel were "truly distinctive in an already crowded market", which includes E4, Bravo, MTV and Sky.

In a letter to the BBC, she asked the corporation to rethink its plans, adding that the proposal was "not well substantiated and the degree of public value of the service was not established".

But Dyke said he remained optimistic that the new youth channel would be launched next year.

"The Media Secretary has made it clear that it is not an objection to the channel in principle," said Dyke. "We believe it is an important channel, but perhaps we haven’t made it clear enough what BBC3 is about.

"We will go back to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and make a renewed attempt to demonstrate the distinctiveness and the public service nature of the channel."

In an e-mail to staff, Dyke said that the Media Secretary’s decision "did not necessarily mean that the channel was dead" and that fresh proposals would be submitted to the Government "as a matter of urgency".

But although BBC chiefs were expected to submit revised proposals in the next few weeks, there was some concern over Jowell’s assertion that the new proposals would be subject to a further consultation.

Stuart Murphy, controller of BBC Choice, which was to be relaunched as BBC3, said that the first step would be to find out what the minister had not liked about the service.

"It’s difficult because BBC3 is not aimed at people like Tessa," said Murphy who added that he believed the channel would attract a new audience to public service broad- casting. But he admitted that the BBC needed to be clearer about how its plans did meet public service requirements.

A new 60-second news bulletin has already been launched on BBC Choice that would be moved from once every two hours to hourly on BBC3.

Murphy also plans a new satirical That Was The Week That Was-style programme and hopes to introduce current affairs programmes aimed at a youth audience.

But BBC chiefs were keen to stress that it was not the role of the BBC to decide its scheduling. The BBC’s director of television, Mark Thompson, said that he would look into what powers the Government had to monitor BBC 1 and BBC2 after the media secretary said that the new channels should not detract from the quality of its core channels.

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