BBC2's new chief promises more comedy offered by new chief of BBC2 's new chief promises 36/36 over 3 deckys

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Mark Thompson, controller-designate of BBC2, said yesterday that he would take big risks on high quality drama and would develop more cutting- edge situation comedy like Absolutely Fabulous.

Speaking for the first time about his plans for the BBC's minority-taste channel, Mr Thompson, 38, used the closing session of the Edinburgh International Television Festival to make a commitment to factual and arts programmes, even the return of shows such as Arena and Monitor.

Mr Thompson said he would build on the work of his predecessor, Michael Jackson, who is to be controller of BBC1. "What Michael has done brilliantly is broaden the appeal of the channel," he said.

However, BBC2 needed more situation comedies, Mr Thompson said. He was prepared to be patient: program-mes such as Men Behaving Badly could find an audience over time, and "some thing good will work with audiences if you stick with it long enough".

Newsnight would remain an "anchor point"and would not be moved. Broadly, BBC2 should be about "story-telling", he said: the best programmes, particularly factual ones, were those with strong narrative drive.

He conceded that the launch of Channel 5 in January would increase competition for BBC2 and Channel 4. "They will be competing in lifestyle and leisure programming, because they haven't got the budget for big drama," he said.

The reaction from delegates was positive, with one producer calling Mr Thompson's plans "proof he knows the BBC2's strengths and weaknesses". There had been some criticism that Mr Thompson, currently controller of factual programmes, did not have the experience to run BBC2.

The festival continued to be dominated by the BBC's campaign to increase the licence fee and discussion of its costs. t Colin Cameron, head of television at BBC Scotland, apologised to Kate Adie yesterday after describing her coverage of the Dunblane tragedy as "not appropriate".

He said: "My reference to Kate Adie was misconstrued and was clearly not addressed to either her journalistic abilities or the personal feelings she will have had at being present in Dunblane through that terrible time."

Channel 4 'worth pounds 1bn', page 14

Mathew Horsman, Media, Section Two

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