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Goverment invites comments on revised BBC Three plans

LONDON - The government has asked for comments on the BBC's revised plans for its digital youth channel BBC Three, which were knocked back in their original format in September.

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It has invited opinions from consumers and the TV industry to be submitted by January 25. The proposals are available in full at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website at culture.gov.uk.

Plans for BBC3, which if it is approved will morph out of the broadcaster's current digital youth offering, BBC Choice, are, it claims, "substantially different" from the original proposals which the corporation submitted to culture secretary Tessa Jowell at the beginning of this year.

The new channel is planning to place greater emphasis on news, current affairs, education and the arts.

It will broadcast a 15-minute news programme every weekday in peak time and hourly bulletins until midnight. It will also air at least 30 current affairs programmes lasting 30 minutes each a year; 30 hours of new education programmes; and 50 hours of new music and arts programmes.

The BBC aims for the channel to be educational and interactive -- with around 20% of the channel's programming supported by interactivity and the internet -- as well as entertaining.

It will also provide programming which reflects the multicultural society in the UK, while 80% of programming will be specially commissioned for the channel and 90% of programming will be made in the UK.

Mark Thompson, BBC director of television, said: "We have listened carefully to the audience we want to reach, and been guided by the comments made earlier this year by the Secretary of State, in creating what are substantially different proposals.

"The BBC has researched carefully the needs of the target audience, and the state of current provision in the market place, and it is clear to us that they are not being well served either by commercial television or by the BBC's existing channels.

"BBC3 is a critical part of our aim of providing a digital television future for every viewer, regardless of their ability to pay. Together with our new children's channels and the new BBC4, BBC3 will enable the BBC to offer viewers of all ages a complete and coherent digital TV portfolio, and to demonstrate the wider benefits of digital TV," he said.

During the day the channels will broadcast two children's offerings: Cbeebies for the pre-school market and CBBC for six- to 12-year-olds. In the evenings the channels will become BBC3, when it is approved, and an arts and culture channel called BBC4.

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