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Women's channel launched with a crucial eye on controversy

A NEW satellite TV station aimed mainly at women was launched yesterday.

UK Living starts broadcasting on September 1 with an investment of #25m and a range of presenters including ex-Eldorado nightclub singer Polly Perkins and EastEnder Michelle Collins.

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Head of programmes is Lis Howell, who left GMTV after the station had been on the air for less than two months -- and just three days after former TV-am supremo Greg Dyke became company chairman.

Ms Howell -- who was credited with the invention of GMTV's controversial F-factor for fanciability, said there would be no need for UK Living presenters to have on-screen chemistry -- they are all women.

She was unrepentent about her F-factor policy at GMTV -- but went on: ''It doesn't apply here because presenters will be operating individually and you can't have sexual chemistry on your own.

''But I still think the F-factor is great and I am still a firm believer that appearance on TV matters.

''However, the chemistry that will matter here is between the presenter and the audience, and we have thought very carefully about how they should dress, what they should look like, and how they should appeal -- it's crucial.''

Ms Howell, 41, said UK Living would have ''controversial moments'' because it intended to deal with contentious issues.

A unique aspect will be repeats of programmes such as Kilroy, Anne and Nick, and Floyd, which would be shown within a week of being transmitted on mainstream television.

Currently its sister station, UK Gold, repeats EastEnders and other shows, but episodes can date back several years.

Former TV-am host Kathryn Holloway, 32, who will present an agony aunt programme similar to the Oprah Winfrey Show, admitted that it might ''shock'' some of the audience by tackling problems in an adult way.

''You might have a mother who comes home and finds her son dressed in her bra and knickers or a mistress talking about how she got involved with the man in her life,'' Ms Holloway said.

''It is not a family channel, it is women talking adult to adult. It will be the nuts and bolts of problems, but within the constraints of the ITC guidelines, which are actually quite broad.''

The station was designed neither for a ''mumsy'' market nor for ''rabid feminists'' as neither extreme reflected the majority of women in Britain, said Ms Holloway.

She pledged that she would look like a real person on-screen rather than the Barbie doll many women were made up to look like for TV cameras.

''Women on TV have to be girl-next-door and non-controversial,'' she said.

''Most of them look as if they are in fancy dress. How many women do you know during the day who wear primrose yellow dresses, with big gold buttons?

''I look like a real person, there will be no teased hair, no lip-gloss. It's completely inappropriate to have someone looking like they've come off a Dynasty set when they're talking to a victim of a multiple rape.''

UK Living is owned by Thames Television and two American broadcasting companies, Cox Enterprises and Tele-Communications Inc.

It will be available on the BSkyB network and to homes connected to cable and will broadcast 18 hours a day, seven days a week. The potential audience is 3.6 million women, although it is also hoped men and teenagers will tune in.

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