Sky Arts, the U.K. arts and culture niche TV network operated by Rupert Murdoch's satellite-delivered BSkyB platform, is launching its new "Songbook" series on May 1.

Sky Arts says the eight-part, one-hour weekly series, sponsored by U.K. authors collecting society PRS, represents its commitment to airing more original music programming.

"Songbook" focuses on some of rock and pop's most accomplished British contemporary songwriters, and how some of their greatest hits came to be written.

In one example, Phil Collins kicks off the High-Definition (HD) production talking about the 1981 hit "In the Air Tonight" and how the lyrics were, like many of the songs from that time, influenced by his first divorce.

Among the other singer-songwriters interviewed are Travis lead singer Fran Healey, David Gray, the Stranglers' Hugh Cornwell, and Ian McCulloch, lead singer of Echo and the Bunnymen. Each artist performs an acoustic version of a well-known hit.

John Cassy, Sky Arts' channel manager, tells that the move confirms the channel's ambitions to become a major supporter of original music-programming content.

"It is one of the first music programs we've originated from scratch," he says. "And the fact that is the series is partly funded by the PRS shows how serious we are."

The show airs on the Sky Arts and Sky Arts HD channels.

Sky Arts' attempt to bolster its original music-programming portfolio coincides with the network's involvement in this year's Hampton Court Palace Festival (June 3-21) in London, its first sponsorship of a live-music festival.