Translating the black and white into colour

Channel 5 franchise: 'Modular' approach to schedule will establish regular slots for game shows, comedy, fiction and fact
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The Independent Online

Media Correspondent

The desire to be a "truly national channel" that "helps people feel good about themselves, and about life in Britain" looks fine in the black and white of Channel 5 Broadcasting's application - but how will translate into colour on screen?

Channel 5 Broadcasting's big programming idea is the "modular schedule". Translated into English, that means the network will broadcast particular types of programmes at the same time each weekday, and in some cases, at weekends.

The weekday peak-time drama module, for example, will contain film as well as new and classic drama. Greg Dyke said yesterday that the proportionof original productions would be limited to around 20 hours in the first year. The network would draw on Thames Television's and Anglia's extensive programme libraries, which include classic series such as Minder, The Sweeney, Edward and Mrs Simpson, Rumpole of the Bailey and Van Der Valk.

Other major series, such as The Chief and PD James' Mysteries, will be scheduled as rights become available. However, Mr Dyke insisted that the channel would not be over-reliant on re-runs. "You've got to get the balance right. If you put out a pile of repeats, you will alienate the audience."

There will also, therefore, be specially commissioned work. On weekday evenings, Lifeline will follow the lives of a group of mainly young people who work in two neighbouring hospitals in a small English town. It will be repeated on weekday mornings and in a Sunday omnibus edition.

The Bill meets Fame in a drama series about the loves and lives of a class of trainee policemen and women called Jericho Lane, while DJs charts the fortunes of a campaigning, inner-city legal aid practice.

Acquired feature films will run on Sundays, Mondays and Fridays in peak time, with original cinema versions of hard-hitting movies appearing in a midnight slot called Uncut.

News will be supplied by ITN, with coverage based on short bulletins on the hour, every hour, except during programmes lasting more than an hour. There will also be a 20-minute bulletin at 8pm each evening. Mr Dyke said the network's bulletins would work harder to reflect European and environmental issues.

Game and quiz shows will fill the early evening schedule. Several formats are under review - Gambit, which is based on the card game Pontoon; Hot Streak, in which men compete with women to describe something simple without using the obvious words; Television Scrabble and Fibs and Tibs, a medical- based quiz show hosted by Tony Slattery.

Initial comedy output will be made up of US imports such as Sisters, Empty Nest, an Emmy award-winning series about a widowed doctor and his adult daughters, and You Again, a US version of the UK series Home to Roost, in which a divorced man and teenage son try to live together.

Continuing Mr Dyke's theme of trying to offer "something for different people at different times of the day", the network will also broadcast a late night show called 5 Late for a youth audience, which will showcase new comedy and talent. "I hope it will be a bit risque," he said. Mentorn, which produced Challenge Anneka and Gerry Anderson's Space Precinct, will supply Time Out, a daily live entertainment and critical listings programme covering TV, film, music and theatre.

An afternoon magazine show pitched mainly at women, called PM, will, the company says, attempt to offer a more challenging alternative to the standard daytime fare of health, beauty and soap stars.

Channel 5 Broadcasting said it would not spend money on bidding wars for sports rights. Instead funds would be channelled into original programmes such as The Big Sports Preview, in which four former international sporting stars preview the weekend's key sporting action.