Ratings decline reflects deepening crisis at BBC 1: Share of weekly audience reaches lowest level since 1985

THE latest ratings for BBC 1, published yesterday, show the extent of the crisis that in the last few days has forced the corporation to drop its head of Light Entertainment, Jim Moir, and to cancel Esther Rantzen's long-running That's Life.

Figures from BARB (the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board) show that the main BBC channel won only 28.9 per cent of the total television audience for the week ending 27 June, its lowest weekly share since 1985.

One reason is that it was the first week of the Wimbledon fortnight, which always increases audiences for BBC 2. Yet even in the week before Wimbledon, BBC 1 attracted only 30.7 per cent of viewers. ITV's rival Channel 3 scored 41.4 per cent that week and 39 per cent in the first Wimbledon week, which saw BBC 2's share increase from 9.5 per cent to 15.1 per cent.

Although the BBC discourages making a link between poor ratings and Mr Moir's transfer to a non-programme role, it is known that Alan Yentob, who has been running BBC 1 since the beginning of the year, believes that the schedule he inherited has a fusty, old-fashioned look. This is especially so in Light Entertainment, which has scored only one palpable ratings hit in recent months - Noel Edmonds's Noel's House Party.

Will Wyatt, managing director of BBC Television, said yesterday: 'Our comedy is the best I can remember.' But many of the BBC's critical successes - Absolutely Fabulous, Alas Smith and Jones, Have I Got News for You? - play to audiences of up to 5 million on BBC 2, although the latter reached 7.5 million, counting the repeat.

ITV, by contrast, manages to get significant audiences for its best light entertainment shows. Yesterday's figures for the week ended 27 June put four such shows in the overall top 20 - Wheel of Fortune (10.3 million), Through the Keyhole (9.84 million), Surprise Surprise (9.77 million) and Stars in Their Eyes (9.02 million). When the BBC tries its hand at so-called 'people' formats - Old Flames, Caught in the Act and Bobby Davro: Public Enemy No. 1 - it usually fails.

Mr Wyatt said: 'We do want to have popular entertainment shows in the early evening. But BBC 1 will not be a success if it gains 5 or 6 per cent in the share but does it with a lot of high prize game shows.'

Critics inside and outside the BBC believe that the failure in light entertainment is a direct result of the new 'Birtian' philosophy, which downgrades entertainment at the expense of news and current affairs.

If the BBC wants to regain a mass audience for comedy and entertainment it will need to appoint someone who knows the business. This is why Alan Boyd, now with Grundy, which produces Neighbours, is the most interesting of those being mentioned to succeed Mr Moir. He was head of light entertainment at London Weekend and would be a good populist foil to Mr Yentob, whose background is in music and the arts.

Mr Yentob cannot be blamed for the collapse of BBC 1's ratings because he is still showing programmes he inherited. The only other time BBC 1's share fell below 29 per cent was in 1985, when Michael Grade had been Controller for about as long as Mr Yentob has now. A year later Mr Grade's channel was neck and neck with ITV.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk