'Top of the Pops' slips to the bottom of the schedules as ratings dive

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The Independent Online

After being hammered in the ratings in recent years by Coronation Street, Top of the Pops is to be deposed from its premier Friday night spot on the BBC's main channel.

After being hammered in the ratings in recent years by Coronation Street, Top of the Pops is to be deposed from its premier Friday night spot on the BBC's main channel.

Instead, it will live out its days on BBC2 in the backwaters of Sunday teatime - where religion, nostalgia, antiques and natural history usually rule.

For music fans of a certain age, many of whom resented the move from Thursday evenings a decade ago, it will mark the final admission that the show's glory days, and perhaps those of pop music, are over.

At its peak, TOTP attracted an audience of 14 million. Last week, it was just over 3 million.

The BBC plans to maintain the original aims of the programme but also to bring it up to date, most notably by linking it to the live Sunday-night chart rundown. Executives have long felt that, by the time the programme goes out on Fridays, the chart is already a week old.

The new TOTP will be up to an hour long and will combine elements of the popular TOTP2, already on BBC2, in which Steve Wright recalls previous performances from the show alongside a ticker-tape of pop trivia. But Wright will not be returning to the main show, which he regularly presented in the 1980s.

The future of the current presenters, Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates, is also undecided, although Andi Peters, who oversaw a recent revamp, will continue as the show's executive producer.

Explaining the move, Jana Bennett, the BBC's director of television, said it was important to attract new viewers, especially older ones. "In the changing world of music and television, Top of the Pops will find a stronger home on BBC2 in its new format." she said.

"I believe moving to BBC2 and adapting to a more diverse audience is the right evolution for the programme."

Bosses are keen to stress BBC2's pop credentials, pointing to the success of shows like Later with Jools Holland and the televised Glastonbury Festival. BBC2's controller, Roly Keating, said his channel would provide a "natural home" for the show.

The programme's decline parallels the steep fall in sales of singles, down 30 per cent in 2003 and 10 per cent already this year. In October, the Swedish DJ Eric Prydz's "Call On Me" reached number one with the fewest singles sold - 23,519 copies.

It was not always thus. After unsteady beginnings 40 years ago when TOTP was broadcast from a church in Manchester, it took off. For 20 years, from the mid-Sixties to the Eighties, an appearance on TOTP practically guaranteed chart success.

What will replace the show on Friday is yet to be decided, but whatever does will be expected to dent Coronation Street's lead.

THE HIGHS ...

By Danielle Demetriou

Jimmy Saville, the iconic presenter who launched the debut show from a converted church in Manchester in 1964 with the Rolling Stones, The Hollies and Dusty Springfield.

Jimmy Hendrix's appearance in 1967, a legendary musical coup - even if he was left trying to mime "Purple Haze" while an Alan Price track was played accidentally.

Changing the musical landscape with the debut appearance of The Sex Pistols performing the loud, fast and angry classic rock single "Pretty Vacant" in 1977.

Cliff Richard's 1973 performance was surreally interrupted by a shower of flying wigs. The culprits emerged as The Who's roadies, who had decided to raid the props department.

... AND THE LOWS

Frankie Goes To Hollywood appeared on the 20th anniversary show in 1984, performing "Relax" - before the track was banned by the BBC the following week because of its "unsuitable" lyrics. It did not stop the track from becoming a number-one hit.

When Dexy's Midnight Runners performed "Jackie Wilson Said" in 1982, there was an unexpected and confusing backdrop: instead of an image of the soul legend Jackie was an enormous image of darts champion Jockie Wilson.

Terry Wogan singing the "Floral Dance Song". Need we say more?

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