Two-Tier Television; Viewers Can Watch Top BBC Shows First, If They Pay for Digital
Cohen, Nadia, Boshoff, Alison, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: NADIA COHEN;ALISON BOSHOFF
MILLIONS of TV licencepayers are receiving a second-class service when it comes to seeing some of the BBC's new shows, it emerged yesterday.
Certain programmes are being broadcast on digital channels - available only to those paying extra for satellite or cable - before they are screened on terrestrial television.
Corporation bosses hope premiering the shows on these channels will encourage more viewers to subscribe.
Digital viewers can see the comedy quiz Shooting Stars a month earlier than viewers who watch it on BBC2.
The Vic Reeves programme was shown for the first time on BBC Choice at the weekend.
Johnny Vaughan's new chat show is being broadcast three times a week on the digital channel, two hours before it airs on BBC1.
The acclaimed American legal drama The Practice is also being shown first on Choice then repeated on BBC1.
John Beyer, of the TV campaign group Mediawatch UK, said yesterday: 'Those who don't switch to digital have to plough on with repeats and the low-budget programmes which are dominating the schedules.
'The new strategy is clearly to get people to take up digital.
But it means the rest of us will start missing out on our favourite programmes.' Aimed at viewers between the ages of 16 and 34, BBC Choice is intended to rival Channel 4's youth-orientated digital channel E4, which already shows popular shows such as ER and Friends well before they can be seen on Channel 4.
Future plans for BBC Choice include a sitcom called Having It Off, which will be repeated on BBC2 month later.
new series of the successful comedy Two Pints of Lager will have its first showing on Choice this spring, while no date has yet been fixed for BBC2 screening.
Other programmes to be screened first on the digital channel include second series of Stupid Punts, a gameshow hosted by comedian Patrick Kielty.
Last year, episodes of LA Pool Party could be seen on Choice on Sundays but were not shown on BBC1 until the following Fridays. …