The ghosts of Christmas TV past: Nearly two-thirds of festive television will be repeats

No, haven’t had too much Eggnog, it really is the Vicar of Dibley on telly again

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The Independent Culture

Appetites might be whetted for festive specials from Downton Abbey to EastEnders, but for the most part the telly this year will be the ghosts of Christmas past with nearly two-thirds of the schedule being made up by repeats.

Across the main four channels during the two-week period from 20 December to 2 January, 729 of the 1,154 programmes will have been broadcast previously – that’s 63 per cent repeats, thought to be the highest ever number.

These include old favourites such as The Vicar of Dibley, Morecambe & Wise, Only Fools and Horses and Dad’s Army, but also programmes that might not remain in the public consciousness in the same way, such as repeats of the game show Pointless.

More than 60 per cent of the festive output on the BBC’s terrestrial channels will be repeats, with BBC2 proving the worst offender with 74 per cent of its content having been broadcast before.

More than 330 hours of reused content with be broadcast on BBC1 and BBC2 during the two-week Christmas period.

As much as 72 per cent of Channel 4’s television content will be repeats; while ITV has the most new content on its schedule with re-runs making up only 57 per cent of its schedule.

Defending the schedule, a BBC1 spokesman said: “The BBC invests more in television at Christmas than any other UK broadcaster. Well over 90 per cent of programmes in peak time on BBC1 will be brand new.”

He cited Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot, Harry Hill’s Professor Branestawm and the final two episodes of Miranda, plus specials from Doctor Who, Call the Midwife, Mrs Brown’s Boys and Still Open All Hours as examples of anticipated newly produced content.

"There are some carefully chosen repeats in the mix including family favourites and much loved treats from previous years including Royle Family and Vicar of Dibley,” he added.

A BBC2 spokesman said: “BBC Two offers a complementary schedule at Christmas with a wide range of brand new programmes including special episodes of The Wrong Mans, Top Gear and House of Fools; new drama, That Day we Sang; The Snow Wolf Family and Me; The Choir; Carols from King’s and War Horse Prom; as well as carefully selected repeats, many of which are of classic favourites including The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise and Blackadder’s Christmas Carol.”

An ITV spokesman said: “We have strong highlights in our schedule this year, including the free to air premieres of Skyfall and The Dark Knight, a two hour special of Downton Abbey, new factual such as the The Queen’s Garden, and the return of hit comedy Birds of a Feather.”

Channel 4 said only about 30 per cent of its primetime content was repeated and referred to brand new shows such as Best of Gogglebox, The Big Fat Quiz of the Year and a Christmas Come Dine With Me.