BBC2 to create `Artzone' for culture

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The Independent Online
BBC2 IS to put its prestige arts programmes into one 90-minute slot, prompting fears that the channel is reducing its cultural coverage.

ArtZone, as it will be called, was announced yesterday by Jane Root, controller of BBC2. It is the most high-profile initiative Ms Root has taken since becoming controller a year ago. The History Zone, which she also introduced, is thought within the BBC to have been very successful.

She is not saying yet which night the ArtZone will be on, though informed guesses are that it will be a Sunday night. Well-known BBC2 arts strands such as Arena and Late Review will certainly be in the new slot, while live performances will continue to be shown at other times.

Ms Root is known to want to alter the BBC2 schedule. She will be insisting on changes to Late Review, the critical look at the week's arts events, and will announce those moves in the next few weeks.

One BBC2 insider said yesterday: "The glory of the channel used to be that you could come across cultural programmes unexpectedly on any evening and have new horizons unexpectedly opened up to you, whatever your interests. Putting all the arts programmes in one themed block sounds as if it is just for arts buffs, rather than the general viewer."

But Ms Root said yesterday that ArtZone will, on the contrary, proclaim BBC2's role as a champion of the arts. "ArtZone gives viewers who are united by a passion for the arts and culture an innovative and clearly signposted viewing period," she said. "I have sought to give these [arts] programmes the best possible support. The ArtZone will be the home of arts on terrestrial television."