'Top of the Pops' has lost the plot (and it's all my fault says Pop Idol)

Relaunch of chart show has been scuppered by record companies claims Pete Waterman
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The Independent Culture

The gurus of pop are not happy. Following its make-or-break facelift shown on Friday night, Top of the Pops has united the worlds of pop and rock in condemnation.

Pop svengali Pete Waterman, whose acts have dominated the show since the 1980s, said the programme had "lost the plot". He partly blamed himself for its decline. "All of us have ruined it," he said. "We have tampered with the charts. You can't blame the BBC totally; the record companies are also at fault. It tells us what to buy, not what we've bought.

"It has had more to do with people's taste at the BBC rather than what people bought. We've got bands on Top of the Pops that wouldn't have been seen dead on the show 10 years ago." He added that the show should have stuck to what it knows best, pop music, rather than trying to be credible. "We've lost the boundaries between what was popular music for Top of the Pops and what was popular music for different genres."

The show, which turns 40 next year, now has magazine-style content, a far cry from the days when the format slavishly followed the charts. Audience figures have slipped to 2.8 million from a heyday of 16 million in the 1970s. Last June, Lorraine Heggessey, the controller of BBC1, was prevented from shifting it to digital BBC3 only because that channel's controller, Stuart Murphy, refused to take it.

Mr Waterman was not alone in his derision. Andy Prevezer of Warner Music said: "Dumbing it down and turning it into a Saturday morning kids' show is not the way to go. It filled me with horror when I heard what they were doing with it. If that's what kids are forced to watch, that's what they'll buy. The live scene has never been as vibrant as it is right now, but if it doesn't get on TV it will continue to be marginalised."

When Top of the Pops began in 1964 it was the only way many music fans would be able to see their pop idols perform. Now it is competing against pop music in the terrestrial channels, dozens of satellite and cable channels, hundreds of radio stations and a myriad of musical genres.

But the programme still has some lingering goodwill. Friday night's show, featuring stage performances from Kylie Minogue, Westlife and Mis-Teeq and live interviews with Gareth Gates, Kelly Osbourne and Victoria Beckham by MTV newsman Tim Kash, who will become the show's permanent presenter, attracted 6.1 million viewers.

Wayne Garvie, the head of BBC entertainment who commissioned the revamp, staunchly defended the show. "To achieve six million for the first of the new shows was fantastic," he said. "I think any record industry boss would be ecstatic if his acts were appearing on a show with that audience."

Veteran broadcaster John Peel, a former Top of the Pops presenter, said he "wouldn't switch it off if it was on". "I rarely watch television," he said. "I'm always listening to my boxes of 12-inch singles. On Friday I went to see my wife in a local production of Carmen, so there's a bit of a cultural gulf."

Former Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, who has appeared on the show several times, said: "I would always watch Top of the Pops because of how important it was for me when I was a kid. I'd watch it again, but the presenter wasn't very good. Wasn't that boy staring at the camera a lot? They should do something about that. But then, I'm not 12 any more."