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The BBC's digital future

The BBC is to be allowed to launch a raft of new digital TV and radio stations following the news that Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has given the green light to eight out of the broadcaster's nine proposals, writes Claire Billings.

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Three out of the BBC's four TV channels have been approved by the government. Although the number of approved services was little surprise, the news that the rejected channel is BBC3, rather than one of the children's channels, has come as a shock to the industry and the BBC.

Highbrow arts and culture channel BBC4 stood up to the government's rigorous consultation. It promises to be diverse, outward looking and globally minded, featuring world news, international cinema, interviews, debates and performance. Its current affairs coverage is said to "enhance but not replace" what is already available on BBC1 and BBC2.

BBC3 was the only digital service to be rejected by the government in its current format. The BBC has been asked to reconsider its proposal and to resubmit it at a later date.

BBC3 was set to take over from BBC Choice, the broadcaster's current offering for the 16- to 34-year-old audience. The original format was described as "new generation TV with a zest for life".

The BBC said programming could feature faces such as Johnny Vaughan, Davina McCall and Richard Blackwood. Shows including Shooting Stars, LA Pool Party and Rent Free, and dramas such as Tinsel Town and The Fear, would likely feature on the youth channel.

During the day, the BBC will transmit children's channels on either station. One channel will cater for the pre-school age group, showing new commissions alongside existing favourites such as Tweenies and Playdays. It will encourage learning through an interactive text service for parents and children, along with simple science, puzzles and music and movement.

The second children's service targets six- to-13-year-olds. This will feature extended coverage from the Blue Peter and Newsround teams as well as new dramas. During the day in term time, it will broadcast schools' programming.

Both channels will be advertising-free zones and be dominated by original UK programming. Online clubs will be set up to encourage children to use the internet and contribute ideas, opinions and creative content.

The BBC's proposed digital radio stations aim to provide everything from the best in UK garage to comedy, top sporting events and new Asian talent.

The first service is being promoted as a cutting-edge black urban music station, with the working title Network X. The second is the Asian Network, which will bring news and current affairs to Asian communities across the UK.

A new music station, temporarily named Network Y, will provide a platform from which to broadcast the BBC's entire archive of music going back 40 years. It will include session recordings, new artists live in concert and news and documentaries.

The as yet unnamed Network Z will be an entertainment channel for all ages, broadcasting comedy from the past and present, poetry, drama and book readings.

Sports fans will have the luxury of an extra station dedicated to broadcasting live sports events. This will be a part-time network and will only be available to cover live sporting events taking place which are not scheduled on any other BBC station.

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