BBC in Talks About State-Subsidized British Arts Channel

BBC Logo Black White - H 2011

BBC Logo Black White - H 2011

The public broadcaster and the Arts Council England are already spending $7.1 million on temporary online arts channel The Space.


British public broadcaster BBC and the Arts Council England are in talks to launch the first permanent state-subsidized arts TV channel, the Guardian reported.

The Arts Council, which distributes public money from the government and National Lottery to arts organizations, is hoping that an experiment involving the BBC this summer will pave the way for a permanent network, it said.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has faced calls for his departure amid criticism over his role in the review of News Corp.'s bid last year to acquire BSkyB, had suggested such a channel and said that state grants to arts and cultural organizations should be conditional on their supplying content.

The BBC and Arts Council are spending £4.5 million ($7.1 million) on The Space, a temporary online channel that launched last month and was scheduled to close in October. Now, the Council is looking at extending the offer with the hope to make it permanent either in its current form or in the form of a successor, the Guardian said.

The council has funded hundreds of hours of commissions from 53 arts groups, while the BBC provides technology, training and mentoring services. According to the Guardian, the Arts Council wants to make The Space permanent, but is opposed to making government grants conditional on arts groups' agreement to provide content.

"The Space has a huge potential to make more of the arts available in new ways to new audiences," a spokesperson for the council said. "The Arts Council would like to continue, and we're in active talks with the BBC about the implications and logistics of this, and hope to be able to make this clear before the current pilot phase comes to an end...rather than make it a condition of funding, right now we need to illustrate the benefits to arts organizations of willingly embracing the opportunities that digital technology presents."

Twitter: @georgszalai