- Commercial television snaffled audience share from the BBC last year, sending BBC1's share of viewers tumbling below 30 per cent for the first time, according to consolidated audience figures for 1998 from BARB.
The figures show that combined BBC1 and BBC2 viewing share fell by 1.6 per centage points against the commercial channels, down to 40.9 per cent of the audience.
ITV's audience share was also down, from 32.9 per cent to 31.7. However, ITV did virtually meet its target of 38 per cent of all individuals during the peak hours of 19.00 to 22.30. Final figures show that ITV achieved a 37.9 per cent share during this time period.
Agencies have welcomed ITV's achievement in nudging its guaranteed target, but acknowledge that the figures were boosted by the channel's World Cup coverage.
Channel 5 and the increase in viewing to cable and satellite channels won share at the expense of BBC and ITV. Channel 5's share was up from 2.3 per cent to 4.3 per cent, whilst cable and satellite channels saw their total viewing rise by one per centage point.
The BBC's disappointing performance comes in the week that the government ratified plans for a panel to review the level of the licence fee through to the year 2006. About a third of the 1998 licence fee income was spent on BBC1.