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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 June 2006, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Pops out of tune with digital age
The Jam's Paul Weller on Top of the Pops
The show was essential viewing for generations of young music fans
"Video killed the radio star," sang Buggles in 1980, and a generation later it seems that a digital revolution in the music world has put an end to television's longest running weekly pop show.

From audiences of 15 million in its 1970s heyday, Top of the Pops' viewing figures had fallen to an average of about one million in its current Sunday evening slot.

The BBC has blamed its decline on the proliferation of 24-hour digital music channels and the accessibility of music via internet downloads.

"In a rapidly changing musical landscape Top of the Pops no longer occupies the central role it once did," said the corporation, announcing that the final Top of the Pops would air next month.

Music Week Editor Martin Talbot said competition from the growing number of social networking websites like Myspace and user-generated content sites like Youtube had also had an impact.

"The music industry is right at the forefront of the whole digital age," said a Top of the Pops spokesperson.

"The way music is accessed and consumed is so fast-moving that people don't need to rely on that weekly TV show."

'Stood still'

It seems that after decades during which an appearance on Top of the Pops was the ultimate way of reaching the UK record-buying public, and could virtually guarantee a high chart placing days later, the show has become an irrelevance.

But Mr Talbot questions why the BBC has failed to develop the Top of the Pops brand into a broad range of services.

Most of your comments lamenting its demise seem to be from my generation
Jack, in his 40s
Contributor to Have Your Say

He points out that while Smash Hits magazine ceased publication in February after years of falling sales, the brand continues in the form of a website, digital TV and radio stations, and CDs.

The branching out of magazines including Kerrang!, Mojo and Q into digital radio shows their recognition of the need to evolve and diversify to survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace, he says.

"Top of the Pops is one of the most established music broadcasting brands in the world, but it has been allowed to stand still and not move with the times," he said.

Surviving brand

The BBC insists that the brand will survive, with the weekly archive-based TOPT2 show continuing, as well as Top of the Pops magazine.

The magazine has been the UK's number one teen entertainment title for 12 years, at a time when the corporation's Creative Future editorial planning identified a failure to connect with the youth audience.

"It is a hugely successful magazine and there is no reason to suddenly chop it - the loss of the programme does not affect the future of the magazine," said Philip Fleming, BBC Magazines' head of communications.

People are sad to see Top of the Pops go but they are people who are remembering it from when they were younger
Top of the Pops spokesperson
The magazine is also planning to launch a complementary website, possibly incorporating or replacing the programme site.

Curiously, TV viewers in Italy, France and Holland will continue to enjoy locally-made licensed versions of Top of the Pops.

"It is fundamentally the same show - they use the same name, it has the same look and the same general vibe to it. They do really well," said a spokesman for BBC Worldwidde, the commercial arm of the BBC.

"As far as we are concerned it is business as usual, and that is certainly the way we hope to keep it."

The BBC is currently drawing up its overall music strategy as part of the Creative Future editorial blueprint for the next six years.

Top of the Pops' spokesperson said it was possible the brand could feature in those plans.

Meanwhile the corporation has stressed a "renewed commitment" to live music programmes Later... with Jools Holland and BBC Four Sessions, and plans a new series of contemporary music sessions on BBC One.


With the audience for Top of the Pops having fallen so dramatically, it was perhaps unsurprising that those mourning its passing on BBC message boards tended to be viewers from decades past.

"The show lacked the atmosphere of earlier years and was too keen to forget its glorious past," said Mark J, of Reading, in a typical message to the BBC News website's Have Your Say.

Jack wrote: "Not too bothered about the end of Top of the Pops as I'm in my 40s and haven't watched it for years.

Top of the Pops' 1970s dance troupe Pan's People

"Although as most of your comments lamenting its demise seem to be from my generation, this gives us the answer I suspect to why it's going."

Meanwhile the BBC's Newsround website received relatively few messages on the subject.

But a common sentiment among the children that did write in was that they preferred specialist music shows catering to specific tastes.

"People are sad to see Top of the Pops go but they are people who are remembering it from when they were younger, not people who are currently consuming it," the show spokesperson said.

"There is nostalgia for a succession of generations - it used to be total appointment television because it was the way you saw who was in the charts and got your music.

"But that is not how the music world works now."

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