UKTV In The Past: 1997-2000

The ‘UKTV’ network launched on 1 November 1997 as joint partnership between Flextech and BBC. BSkyB tried to compete against Flextech for the right to develop the BBC channels, but the BBC were against inviting BSkyB to participate in the pay-TV venture.

Initially it was assumed that the new channels would be BBC-branded: BBC Showcase, for entertainment; BBC Horizon, for documentaries; BBC Style, for lifestyle; BBC Learning, for schools, and BBC Arena, for the arts, plus three other channels including BBC Catch-Up, for repeats of popular programmes within days of their original transmission, a dedicated BBC Sport channel, and a TV version of Radio 1. Flextech wanted these channels to carry advertisements, but the BBC argued that BBC-branded services in the UK should not carry advertising, as the BBC’s domestic TV channels are non-commercial publicly funded in the UK by a mandatory licence fee. The BBC thought that this would undermine the rationale of the licence fee in the UK.

A compromise was reached; BBC Showcase and BBC Learning, renamed BBC Choice and BBC Knowledge respectively before launch, would go ahead as BBC channels without commercials, while the deal with Flextech was passed to BBC Worldwide with a control split 50/50, thus allowing the remaining channels to carry advertisements. The ‘UK’ prefix was chosen for these new channels to capitalise on the success of UK Gold, as the brand by then had become a household name.

The three new channels were; arts channel – ‘UK Arena’, lifestyle channel – ‘UK Style’ and documentary channel – ‘UK Horizons’.

With the launch of digital television in the UK brought about by Sky Digital and ONdigital in 1998, two new channels were launched to broadcast on the new platforms: ‘UK Gold Classics’, a sister channel to UK Gold showing older shows previously shown on UK Gold, and ‘UK Play’, a new comedy and music channel.

UK Arena

Ident, With thanks to Transdiffusion
UK Arena was relaunched under a new name – UK Drama – on March 31 2000.

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UK Horizons

With thanks to SteviegTVreturns

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UK Style

With thanks to SteviegTVreturns

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