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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Brookside loses prime-time slot
The trial of the Jordaches had viewers hooked in 1995
Long-running Channel 4 soap Brookside is to be axed from its prime-time evening slot, 20 years after it first appeared on TV screens.

Channel 4 announced it would be moved to a Saturday afternoon daytime slot, ending months of speculation about its future.

Peak-time has changed radically across British TV and is no longer an environment in which Brookside can thrive

Channel 4 chief executive Mark Thompson

Industry experts predict the Liverpool-based soap could go off air altogether next year when its contract comes up for renewal.

In a statement Channel 4 Chief Executive Mark Thompson said: "Brookside has been a brilliant programme for Channel 4 as well as the most ground-breaking and influential soap of the past two decades.

Contract obligations

"It remains a high quality drama, which is still enjoyed by many viewers."

But he added that peak-time has "changed radically" across British TV and is "no longer an environment in which Brookside can thrive".

"We want to explore new ideas in peak, while still giving Brookside regulars a chance to enjoy the show over the next year," he said.

Brookside actress Jennifer Ellison who plays Emily Shadwick
The show helped launch Channel 4
From 30 November the soap, created by Phil Redmond, which currenty attracts an average of 1.5 million viewers, will be broadcast as a single, 90-minute special on Saturday afternoons.

Mr Thompson said: "Contractually we are committed to the programme until the end of 2003, but we have, of course, begun to discuss the future of the programme with Phil."

Channel 4's director of programmes Tim Gardam said it was time to take a "realistic view" of the soap's future.

He confirmed there would be no direct drama replacement for Brookside in Channel 4's peak-time schedule.

Brookside actresses Claire Sweeney and Alexandra Fletcher
The soap's contract runs until 2003
But teen soap, Hollyoaks will be extended from four to five episodes a week in 2003.

Mr Redmond, who is also executive producer, said: "I accept that 2003 is likely to be the last year of Brookside in its present form.

"Mersey Television and Channel 4 will review the programme's future early next year."

Channel 4 is also increasing its budget for original UK drama, excluding soaps, by 7.5m in 2003 and will concentrate its extra investment on post-watershed series.

A Brookside spokesperson from Mersey Television said: "As I understand, Brookside is not being axed.

Audience share

"It is being re-positioned in the schedule."

The soap, which celebrates its 20th anniversary on 2 November, has launched the careers of stars including Anna Friel, Amanda Burton, Sue Johnston and Ricky Tomlinson.

And although its viewers have declined recently, during its peak it explored hard-hitting storylines of murder, drug addiction, a lesbian relationship and rape.

Claire Sweeney, who played Lindsey Corkhill in the soap, said she still "loved the show".

"Before leaving just over a year ago, I had six very happy years in Brookside.

"It opened many exciting opportunities for me that I have been able to fulfil in the last year.

"Phil Redmond, the man behind Brookside, was a great boss and friend. I still love the show and my friends still in it."

The move away from prime-time follows a general decline in Channel 4's viewing figures, with rival channel Five catching up and rivalling it in some key slots.


Earlier this month, Five had a ratings success with the heavily-trailed Michael Jackson's Face.

The show generated an audience of 3.6 million, more than four times the number the number who tuned in to Channel 4's documentary College Girls about Oxford students.

And Channel 4's troubled breakfast show Rise is now being easily overhauled by Five's revamped Noddy cartoon Make Way For Noddy.

After coming very close to overtaking Channel 4's audience share last week, Five wants to make permanent gains.

Channel 4's share in the year to date is 10.1%, no change from last year, but Five's has risen from 5.7% a year ago to 6.3% now.

The BBC's Mark Jones reports from Brookside Close
"The soap opera scene has changed a lot"
Guardian media correspondent Matt Wells
"Brookside did change the face of the modern soap opera"
Is it time to axe Channel 4 soap Brookside?



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