BBC's digital channels criticised by independent review

MUMBAI: A British government advisor Patrick Barwise has criticised four digital channels of the BBC for targeting niche UK audiences..

The report concluded that the beeb is wasting millions of pounds of licence fee payers' money on channels that hardly anybody watches.

BBC3, BBC4, CBBC and CBeebies are failing to deliver value for the ?200m they cost in total each year the report. Barwise, of the London School of Business, was asked to look into the channels after complaints that they were diverting cash away from making good shows on BBC1 and BBC2.

On a positive note, he found that the pre-school children's channel CBeebies was popular. "CBeebies is a triumph and an exemplary public broadcasting service service for preschool children. CBBC is a distinctive service with high quality UK-produced content free from advertisements, covering a wide range of genres and with a high proportion of original production".

However despite hits like Little Britain and The Alan Clark Diaries, BBC3 and BBC4 were still providing poor value. "What people want from the BBC is more good programmes with broad appeal I recommend that the BBC stop thinking of BBC3 and BBC4 as niche channels."

Weekly ratings at BBC3 and BBC4 each averaged fewer than 100,000 people, despite budgets of ?100m and ?35m respectively. The new channels should more than double their audience to justify their cost, the report said.

Britain's culture minister Tessa Jowell, who commissioned it, said that the study would feed into a decision on the BBC's charter, which allows it to collect ? 2.9bn a year in licence fees and is up for renewal in 2006.

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