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
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
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

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam