US broadcaster PBS launches 24-hour channel in Britain

The renowned American public service station is opening its archive to UK pay-TV viewers

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America’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) today launched a new British TV channel, available to Sky and Virgin subscribers.

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PBS is known in the US for its history and science documentaries, coverage of music, arts and current affairs – and as the birthplace of long-running children’s show Sesame Street.

Archive programmes to be broadcast here will include American history series such as The Civil War – the channel’s most watched show ever – and science show Nova, which tackles subjects ranging from artificial intelligence to behavioural economics.

Weekday current affairs stalwarts Frontline and PBS Newshour will sit alongside such arts offerings as The Blues – a series of seven films about blues music, executive produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by such eminent names as Clint Eastwood, Mike Figgis and Wim Wenders. Early mornings and weekends will feature children’s shows.

PBS UK general manager Richard Kingsbury said: “[The channel] will appeal to [British] viewers who are natural explorers and want to be challenged and stimulated.

“It’s more about mindset than demographics, but [our viewers] are likely to be more upmarket.”

Kingsbury said PBS shows would add background to themes and eras audiences were already aware of through drama: “Ken Burns’s Prohibition is the real story behind an era we’re all so familiar with, thanks to dramas and films such as Boardwalk Empire and Bugsy Malone.”

A not-for-profit organisation, PBS prides itself on being “independent and impartial”. It is watched in the US by 233 million people each year.

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PBS is available on Sky and Virgin channel 166 from 1 November. It will broadcast non-stop for 24 hours per day, seven days a week.