THE BBC is bracing itself for a rush of complaints about BBC3, a new youth channel that many older viewers will find lewd, rude or simply offensive.
Top corporation executives are concerned that BBC3, funded by the licence payer, will be so filled with sex and swearing that it will become the victim of tabloid newspapers keen to find a new "channel filth" to succeed Channels 4 and 5.
But, anxious to compete for a younger audience, the BBC is preparing a style of programming already seen on the digital channel BBC Choice, which currently treats viewers to the sight of Scott Capurro, a gay comedian, "checking out a dotcom millionaire with a huge todger".
The corporation is already fending off criticism over the appointment of 32-year-old reporter Robert Nisbet, poached from BBC Choice to work as the high-profile "entertainment reporter" on the main channels - apparently snubbing its arts correspondent, Rosie Millard, in the process. Mr Nisbet made his name on Choice with Liquid News, where he was the foil to the ebullient gay anchorman Christopher Price.
While BBC Choice is a niche channel with a tiny audience, its digital successor BBC3 will have a far bigger budget and is supposed to be a core network at the heart of the BBC's digital strategy.
The BBC last week appointed Stephen Whittle, a specialist in taste and decency issues, as its controller of editorial policy. One of his priorities is to work out just how far BBC3 can go without stirring up hostility from mainstream viewers.
"The BBC has long faced a dilemma of how to compete with Channel 4 for youth audiences without alienating old ladies, politicians and the Daily Mail," a corporation executive said. "So far it has failed."
The BBC believes that 29-year-old Stuart Murphy is the answer to its prayers. Currently controller of BBC Choice, he is charged with developing BBC3 - which needs to secure government approval before it can be launched.
Mr Murphy is treading a fine line. He rejected the charge that the BBC was setting out to offend. "We won't have hard core sex," he said, "or swearing before the watershed." However, he admitted that the channel would have a much more relaxed approach to swearing …