BBC experiment puts arts shows on digital channel

The BBC is to switch music and arts programmes between radio and television and between channels in an experiment designed to find out how the public watches television.

The BBC is to switch music and arts programmes between radio and television and between channels in an experiment designed to find out how the public watches television.

A senior BBC executive said yesterday there was confusion in the BBC about viewer and listener behaviour. The corporation could not tell whether viewers were happy to watch their favourite programmes on digital channels, for example.

Nicholas Kenyon, controller of classical music television at the corporation and director of the Proms, also confirmed that the bulk of arts programming will be put on BBC4, as the present digital channel BBC Knowledge will be renamed next year. But he said that there would be no lessening of arts coverage on BBC2.

The guinea pigs in the bi-media experiment that Mr Kenyon will be co-ordinating will be viewers of arts programmes.

He said: "We're starting to see how we can really work in an effective bi-media way. We have to start experimenting to see if the audience will move across between the media. We know how knowledgeable the arts audiences are. But are they radio or TV based mainly; are they digital owners? They are committed to their programmes, but if you offer them things on digital channels can they be made to move around? You may be able to change people's habits of viewing."

The first programme to go bi-media is last night's BBC Symphony Orchestra 70th birthday concert, broadcast live on Radio 3, which will now also be shown on BBC2 on Saturday. A documentary on the composer Aaron Copland to mark the centenary of his birth will be shown on Sunday on BBC2, while a weekend of his music will be broadcast on Radio 3 from 10 to 12 November, with a Copland concert on the 10 November going out on BBC Knowledge. Putting a concert on BBC Knowledge will also be a testing ground. Greg Dyke, the BBC's director general, would like to see the Proms broadcast live on BBC4.

Other bi-media programmes will celebrate the 70th birthday of the pianist Alfred Brendl next January with live Radio 3 concerts and a BBC2 documentary. All Radio 3 concerts will also be broadcast on the Radio 3 website, which was relaunched yesterday.

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