BBC appoints Parfitt to spearhead teen programming

LONDON - The BBC is to appoint Radio One controller Andy Parfitt to head a new initiative developing programming for the teen market across a range of media.

Parfitt will be responsible for developing programme ideas aimed at 12- to 16-year-olds through the corporation's existing broadband, TV and radio services.

It is understood the output could include new TV drama series, comedy shows, music programmes and more factually orientated shows, but there are no plans to launch a new channel.

Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general, said: "The BBC plays an important role in the early years of many people's lives. But as they reach adolescence this relationship fades because the corporation hasn't been producing enough content that appeals to them.

"We are now aiming to bridge the gap with high-quality content tailored to appeal to them."

The corporation has brushed off accusations that it is creating a "teen tsar" or branded medium, saying it is conscious of the fact that 60% of 16- to 24-year-olds watch fewer than three hours of BBC programming a week.

The corporation is responding to the challenge of the youth internet market, specifically Bebo, MySpace, Friendster and MSN, which has ultimately led to the demise of traditional programmes like 'Top of the Pops,' which it said is to end next month after a 42-year run.

However, the BBC has been criticised by rival broadcasters including Channel 4, which claims that Parfitt will be developing a "channel by the back door," effectively bypassing the standard public value test stipulated in the BBC's charter when a new service is created.

Parfitt will retain his duties as Radio One controller, a position he has held since 1998.

He said: "It's an exciting and serious responsibility to take on in addition to controller of Radio One and 1Xtra. This is a very important audience group and I know that there's a lot of great work that we can do for them."

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