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Artsworld to drop subscription charge

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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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