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Ratings prompt BBC shake-up: Head of Light Entertainment moving to new post as part of drive for 'fresh thought'

IN ITS latest bid to improve flagging ratings, the BBC disclosed yesterday that Jim Moir, Head of Television Light Entertainment since 1987, was being switched to a job not directly connected with programming. The announcement came two days after the disclosure that BBC1's long-running That's Life is to be axed next year.

Mr Moir, 51, who has been in BBC Light Entertainment for 30 years, is to become Deputy Director of Corporate Affairs, a post created specially for him. Working under Pamela Taylor, who joined the BBC last year from the British Medical Association, he will be responsible for internal and external communication.

It has not been announced who will take over the vital but difficult portfolio of Light Entertainment. Three names are being mentioned inside the BBC: Alan Boyd, who worked at London Weekend Television with John Birt, now Director- General of the BBC; John Howard Davies, the former Head of Entertainment of Thames, which lost the ITV London weekday franchise this year; and Janet Street-Porter, the BBC's Head of Youth programmes, who has also been touted for Controller of Radio 1.

Poor ratings for music and comedy programmes have been among the reasons for BBC 1's continuing desultory performance against ITV's Channel 3. The latest ratings put the main BBC channel 10 per cent behind, with 31 per cent of the audience against Channel 3's 41 per cent.

Alan Yentob's appointment earlier this year as Controller of BBC1 may have sealed Mr Moir's fate. Mr Yentob's view is that, although the BBC was once paramount in light entertainment, the old formats no longer work and fresh thought is needed.

The BBC's decision to continue to make programmes in all areas received support yesterday in a survey published by the Department of National Heritage. Of 6,200 people who accepted the invitation to comment on the Government's Green paper on the BBC's future, 3,759, or 61 per cent, said it should broadcast a wide range of programmes, with only 9 per cent expressing the opposite opinion and the remainder taking no view.

Two-thirds of the respondents thought the licence fee should remain the method of funding the BBC and 44 per cent said there should be no change in the number of television and radio services the corporation offers.