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Artsworld to drop subscription charge

BSkyB will take full control of Artsworld this week and plans to make it available to its subscribers for no charge, according to The Guardian today.

The channel, which offers a wide range of performances and documentaries on the visual arts, film, opera, and literature, had previously been restricted to viewers prepared to pay an extra £6 a month but from September, the majority of Sky's 7.7 million subscribers will be able to watch Artsworld.

John Cassy, the channel manager of Artsworld, said: "It is great news for the arts that a dedicated cultural channel will be available to millions of households."

BSkyB originally took a 50% share in Artsworld in 2003, saving the service from closure. Launched by Channel 4 founder Sir Jeremy Isaacs in 2000, Artsworld claimed to suffer from the BBC's decision to launch its own arts channel BBC4. A number of individual shareholders are being bought out including Sir Jeremy, to raise BSkyB's stake in the channel from 50% to 100%.

"Artsworld occupies a unique space in television broadcasting and is valued enormously by a loyal and discerning audience," said Dawn Airey, the managing director of Sky Networks.

"Its success is a tribute to Artsworld's founders, who had the vision to launch a dedicated arts channel at a time when other broadcasters were scaling back their commitment in this area," she added.
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