BBC1 chief declares truce in Saturday night ratings war

The BBC and ITV's Saturday night ratings war is at an end, the controller of BBC1, Jay Hunt, has signalled, saying she would no longer be alarmed if her network ceased to be Britain's most popular channel.

Ms Hunt said she would not be concerned if Strictly Come Dancing, the BBC's most popular show, attracted smaller audiences than ITV's The X Factor. A fierce scheduling war between the two angered viewers last year. "I don't think it would matter in a pure sense, I don't regard it as a competition between us and ITV," she said, adding that it was still important that BBC1 programmes commanded large audiences. "I don't think it matters, frankly, where we are relative to ITV."

Ms Hunt, who refused to comment on intense speculation that she will be applying to become chief creative officer at Channel 4, was speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival after the BBC's director-general, Mark Thompson, made a key speech attacking the dominance of the British media by BSkyB and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (which is the satellite broadcaster's largest shareholder).

The BBC1 controller's comments were a further suggestion that the BBC no longer sees itself in competition with its traditional rival ITV – which Mr Thompson said had never been as powerful a competitor as BSkyB is now.

Warned by the radio presenter Simon Mayo, who was interviewing her, that she would be criticised for poor ratings, she said: "[Ratings] matter, but they don't matter hugely." She cited recent BBC1 programmes on the arts, including one about Picasso, saying they were not designed to attract vast audiences. "Not everything we do is about being hugely competitive."

She said "I don't think it matters particularly" if Strictly Come Dancing was beaten in the ratings by The X Factor. Mayo reminded her of the previous rivalries. "Yes, it did last year and it did the year before and everybody got terribly excited by that, but at the end of the day the final was watched by more than 11 million people," she said.

"It's still our highest rating entertainment show by a very long stretch. I'm sort of agnostic about [ratings], I don't think it matters. What is exciting is in this day and age having both BBC and ITV on a Saturday night both delivering audiences north of 10 million." This year, for the first time, Strictly Come Dancing viewers will get to see the "magical moment" at the start of the competition when the celebrities meet their dancing partners.

Mayo, a BBC colleague, questioned Ms Hunt over "speculation" that she would leave the Corporation for Channel 4 and asked her about her relationship with the other BBC channel controllers. "I'm not speculating on what I may or may not do at some future date," said Ms Hunt, who denied that she had unduly poached successful programmes from her BBC colleagues, saying that only Masterchef and QI from BBC2 and Gavin & Stacey from BBC3 had made the transition.

She also denied an accusation by the television executive Andy Harries that BBC1 had suffered a "talent exodus" on her watch, a reference to the departures of Jonathan Ross, Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley. Ms Hunt admitted that the loss of Chiles had been "hard" but said The One Show, which he had presented, had not suffered from his absence.

"The bottom line is that I'm sitting here now, two weeks into the new-look One Show, with brand new presenters who are completely unknown to a BBC1 audience and it has performed more robustly than it has ever performed before."

Those comments echoed remarks made by Mr Thompson on Friday when he said that the BBC, which has been facing criticism over its spending levels, might have to allow some of its top stars to leave.

Ms Hunt said the BBC would have to learn to be "more pragmatic" in negotiating with talent, though she said Chiles had been "given the offer of work that a lot of presenters would give their back teeth for" as the BBC tried to persuade him to stay.

Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
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
Latest stories from i100
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition