BBC accused of relegating top programmes to BBC Four
LONDON - The BBC is involved in a programming row about BBC Four and has been accused of relegating some of its top shows to the channel as the digital station launches its biggest marketing campaign to date.
The BBC has been criticised for debuting some of its most eagerly anticipated shows such as the £1m adaptation of 'The Alan Clark Diaries' on the digital arts and culture channel when millions of viewers do not have access to it.
John Hurt, who stars as the late Tory MP in 'The Alan Clark Diaries', claimed that the series was the sort of thought-provoking programme that used to be shown on BBC Two, but had now been pushed to the under-funded BBC Four. He claimed that filming the series had been difficult due to "ludicrous" budgets.
His remarks were echoed by Lord Bragg, presenter of ITV's arts programme 'The South Bank Show', who accused the BBC of hiding its arts programming away on BBC Four.
The row comes as the BBC prepares to launch a multimillion-pound marketing blitz to promote BBC Four to a less highbrow audience and increase viewer numbers. It will run on radio, TV and the internet and carries the strapline "The place to think".
According to Barb figures for the last three months of 2003, viewers only spent six minutes a week, or less than a minute a day, watching BBC Four. That is less than Bid-up TV, a QVC shopping channel, which was watched for eight minutes a week on average.
It is thought that these figures may anger viewers who receive advertising on the BBC's terrestrial channels for the show, which starts tomorrow night, knowing that they will be unable to watch it until later this year on BBC Two. Barb figures reveal that 50% of viewers have not converted to digital television.
The corporation admitted it has received complaints but said that these were outweighed by the positive feedback on the channel from viewers. BBC Four's recent documentary on The National Trust was watched by 350,000 people -- a record for the channel.
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