Budget boost for BBC4

11.30am: As the channel prepares to celebrate its second birthday next week, BBC4 bosses have been handed an extra £10m to help them find the next Alan Clark Diaries, reports John Plunkett.

BBC4 bosses have been handed an extra £10m to help them find the next Alan Clark Diaries.

The adaptation of the Tory MP's diaries starring John Hurt was one of the digital channel's biggest hits, although ratings dipped from more than 800,000 for the first episode to fewer than 200,000 viewers for its final instalment.

Now BBC4, which celebrates its second birthday next week, is bidding to build its audience with a mixture of science, documentaries, comedy and drama. BBC4 chiefs want to alter perceptions of it as a channel dominated by wall-to-wall arts shows.

The budget will increase from just over £30m this year to just over £40m next year - a hike of around a third. The extra cash is a sign of the corporation's determination to build audiences for its digital channels, and coincides with a report commissioned by the Tory party which calls for the licence fee to be scrapped and replaced by subscription channels.

BBC4's audience share has grown by around a half last year - albeit from a very low base - from 0.22% to 0.33%. The channel's controller, Roly Keating, is expected to invest the bulk of the extra cash in landmark documentary series like The National Trust.

"Although we have had quite a lot of high impact single documentaries, they tend to have a greater impact when they are a series," said a channel spokeswoman. "It won't just be arts but science as well. The Alan Clark Diaries were a huge success, and some of the money will be used to maintain that kind of drama on BBC4."

BBC4 has so far featured two Perrier Award winning-stand up comedians in Rich Hall's Fishing Show and a one-off special starring Demetri Martin. It is looking to showcase new satirical comedy shows, a genre which is restricted in mainstream TV to BBC1's Have I Got News for You, ITV's 2DTV and Bremner, Bird and Fortune on Channel 4.

New science series later this year will include Light Story, which will look "at the whole subject of light - from scientific research into light to how it has impacted on the arts and the philosophy of light." It was a "great example of how BBC4 can cross over genres," said a spokeswoman. Another series on atheism will be fronted by Jonathan Miller.

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John Plunkett

The GuardianTramp

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