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

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Graduate Sales Executive

17.5k + Commission (£18.5k after probation period): ESI Media: You will be res...

PPC Account Managers

£25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn