Let's kill Top of the Pops

The BBC has relaunched its flagship music programme - again. What a waste of time, says the former TotP chief Trevor Dann

Forty years old in January, Top of the Pops is the Tottenham Hotspur of music television. Each generation throws up its classic performers - Greaves, Gascoigne, Klinsmann for Spurs; Hendrix, The Faces, the Spice Girls for TotP - and yet every few years, a decreasing audience forces each institution into a relaunch. So, in comes a new management team, and there follows a brief flurry of interest. But nothing can disguise the inexorable decline of both.

On the evidence of last Friday's much-heralded All New Top of the Pops, rigor mortis has already set in. Instead of throwing money at the moribund format, the BBC should listen to what the audience figures are telling it. Pop fans can access their favourite music 24/7 on more than 20 music-TV channels. They can see the top bands on everything from Blue Peter to GMTV. There is just no need for a half-hour pop show in prime time.

If there were a demand, it certainly wouldn't be for this unfocused concoction, which looks like the heated-up remains of The Oxford Road Show from the mid-Eighties blended with some half-baked revenue-generating quizzes.

"All new"? Well, not the logo, which reminds me of that of Vertigo Records in the 1970s. And not the set, which is as cool and stylish as Fame Academy's. What is new is a complete disregard for what is in the charts. In the 60-minute launch edition, there was just one song from the Top 40. It either is a chart show or it isn't. Don't ask the new presenter, Tim Kash, to sell the authority of the Official Chart with the fervour of a 19th-century missionary, and then ignore it altogether.

Where were Girls Aloud, Alex Parks, Busted, Britney Spears and the Pet Shop Boys, all of whom are in the Top 10? Why was Kylie Minogue allowed to plug an album track instead of singing her current single? And who decided to devote three minutes to Craig David's musings on South African politics?

The answer in all cases is: the record companies. They gave up on the TotP format long ago, in despair at BBC TV's commitment to a weekly show based on last week's chart. In the show's heyday, artists clamoured to be on TotP to ensure that their single rose from No 13 to No 7. Now that singles are released to radio stations as many as eight weeks before they appear in the shops, the singles chart doesn't sell records. So, the record industry wants TV shows to broadcast "exclusives", "future hits" and album tracks. And BBC1 has meekly agreed to all that free advertising.

The new show made much of its being "live", but TotP has often been broadcast as it happens. And, apart from a couple of dodgy camera cuts that would have been repaired in editing, how could we tell? The performances by Nelly and Elton John were pre-recorded. Only Will Young and Westlife sang live in the studio - to backing-tapes.

The new executive producer, Andi Peters, is the latest in a long line of would-be saviours of TotP. In the Eighties, Michael Hurll ruled the show like a medieval monarch. In the early Nineties, it was Ric Blaxill, poached from Radio 1 by Jim Moir, who was then head of entertainment at BBC TV. Unlike some of his predecessors, Blaxill was more interested in music than in television, and he revitalised the show by pensioning off some of the elderly presenters and booking more young acts.

But the BBC1 schedulers pulled the rug from under him by moving the show from its traditional Thursday slot to Friday at 7.30pm, against Coronation Street. The weekly audience halved overnight from nine million to less than five million. And it has been going down ever since.

In my time we tried to make the show more cool and credible. I hired Chris Cowey (formerly of The Tube and The White Room) to produce and direct, and, for a while, the figures started to edge back up.

But perhaps I should have seen that I was fighting a losing battle: TotP2, the archive show on BBC2, began to attract more viewers, and the biggest acts were already shunning Top of the Pops. They preferred to appear on the National Lottery show.

Trevor Dann was executive producer of 'Top of the Pops', 1996-2000

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Charter Selection: Graphic Designer, Guildford

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Charter Selection: This renowned and well establish...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'