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Friday, 4 January, 2002, 12:44 GMT
Broadcasters await late ratings
Polar waste? Shackleton was C4's most costly drama
Broadcasters and advertisers have been pitched into uncertainty by the delay of official television audience ratings figures.

The Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (Barb) says viewing figures for 1 January onwards may not be available until 15 January.

Under normal circumstances, the information would be at broadcasters' fingertips one day after transmission.

Most concern at the delay is likely to be felt at Channel 4, which will be keen to find out how many people watched its big-budget drama Shackleton, screened on 2 and 3 January.

Christmas TV Top 10
Only Fools and Horses (BBC1, 20.3m)
EastEnders, 2030 GMT(BBC1, 14.5m)
Coronation Street (ITV1, 12m)
EastEnders, 1755 GMT (BBC1, 10.5m)
Who wants to be a Millionaire? (ITV1, 9.6m)
Before They Were Famous (BBC1, 9.3m)
Emmerdale (ITV1, 8.6m)
The Lost World (BBC1, 8.3m)
News, 2020 GMT(BBC1, 8m)
Toy Story (BBC1, 7.4m)
Alistair McGowan's Big Impression (BBC1, 7.1m)

The two-parter, starring Kenneth Branagh as the legendary polar explorer, is the most expensive drama in the independent channel's history.

Barb says it is postponing publication of audience data because is needs to be certain of accuracy following a radical overhaul in the way the figures are compiled.

For the first time in 30 years, an entirely new sample panel of viewers has been recruited.

The sample size has been increased from 4,300 households to 5,100 in an effort to make the data more demographically and geographically representative.

This is the first change in a decade to the way the Barb figures are compiled.

Barb hopes its data will better reflect the way viewers use television in the multi-channel era.

Only Fools and Horses' Rodney Trotter
Only Fools and Horses won the 2001 Christmas Day ratings battle for the BBC

However, Barb says it needs to be confident that the new information meets its own organisational "gold standard" before it is released.

It warns that "full panel installation" may not be complete until as late as March - a month later than previously stated.

A BBC spokeswoman explained that the delay relates to the installation in sample households of new monitoring equipment.

The equipment would be, as far as was possible, "future proofed" against new developments such as view-on-demand television and interactive TV, she said.

See also:

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24 Dec 01 | TV and Radio
BBC claims news ratings victory
12 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
Blind Date makes strong return
23 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
ITV's failed football gamble
27 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
Digital difficulties ahead for TV
29 Nov 00 | Business
Granada sales jump
28 Nov 01 | Business
Digital woes cost Granada jobs
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