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.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
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 General

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbridge Wells - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbrid...

Year 3 Teacher Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Junior Software Developer - Newcastle, Tyne & Wear - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer / J...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering