`This Life' gets new lease in the US

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The Independent Online
THIS LIFE, the BBC's deceased hit drama series about twentysomething London lawyers, is set to get a second life across the Atlantic on a new coast-to-coast cable channel called BBC America.

Quite how the exploits of Egg, Anna and their fellow flatmates will play in Des Moines, Iowa, remains to be seen, but the BBC and its new global partner, Discovery Communications Inc are obviously prepared to risk offending Middle America.

BBC America aims to transmit almost everything the BBC produces - including EastEnders - rather than just the prestigious costume dramas and natural history documentaries which have been most avidly snapped up in the past by the American public broadcasting service, PBS and the A&E (Arts & Entertainment) cable channel.

The new network will start on 29 March with very limited reach on digital cable, but the plan is to get it into a large number of cable homes within the next few years. BBC America is just one element of a $600m (pounds 360m) global alliance between the BBC and Discovery, which was unveiled yesterday after 18 months of torturous negotiations.

John Birt, the BBC's director-general, and Discovery's chairman and chief executive John Hendricks ceremoniously sealed the deal in a live transatlantic satellite link-up between Television Centre in west London and New York.

Mr Birt said: "This partnership will help the BBC become the world's leading global broadcaster. It is also good news for Britain, for the licence- payer, for British talent."

Mr Hendricks added: "The marriage of the BBC and Discovery brands is truly a match made in media heaven ..."

The two corporations have already teamed up to launch two new channels, People & Arts and Animal Planet, which are available now in Latin America and will be rolled out across the globe.