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BBC faces legal challenge to digital plans

LONDON - The BBC is facing mounting opposition to its plans for two new digital channels, as commercial rivals plan to seek a judicial review if the government gives the channels the green light.

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Rivals have long sought to block the BBC's plans. They have argued that the corporation is using licence-payers' money to provide services that are already provided by commercial television companies.



The BBC plans to launch BBC3, offering youth-orientated programming, and BBC4, which will be an arts and culture station.



The final OK for the new stations is expected to come very soon from Tessa Jowell, the minister for culture, media and sport.


The firms would argue that the BBC has failed to show that the new services will not overlap with commercial services.



The BBC says this is not the case and, in a letter to Sunday Business, Roy Keating, the BBC controller of digital channels, said, "Our digital channels submission makes clear that our new channels will not replicate any existing commercial propositions."



It is unclear which companies would take part in the review, but those that have most to lose are BSkyB, Disney and the Viacom-owned Nickelodeon and MTV stations.



The new BBC stations come at a perilous time for the commercial operations, which are already facing declining advertising revenues and a battle for a relatively small market.



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