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British broadcasters suffer summer drought

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It came as no huge shock when this year's Big Brother was revealed to be the least watched series in the show's history (its ratings have been sliding for years), but despite this early indication many may be surprised at the extent of the downturn felt across Channel 4 and its competitors. Unofficial audience figures released this morning report the worst August ratings slump in history for ITV1 and BBC, while Channel 4 attracted its lowest viewing figures in 25 years.

Reports today suggest that Five was the only primary terrestrial channel to see a year-on-year rise in ratings last month. It recorded an audience share of 4.8%, which was marginally higher than its share in August last year.

Despite continuing to attract a higher audience figure than Five, Channel 4 was the worst hit terrestrial broadcaster. It saw its share drop to 6.47%, or 7.3% if you include its digital +1 channel, which is marginally lower than in 2008 but amounts to its worst record for a quarter of a decade.

Talking to The Guardian, however, a Channel 4 spokesperson has disputed these figures, claiming: "Including +1, Channel 4 had an all-time share of 7.3% across August 2009. Looking at our key audience of 16-34s, the Channel 4 portfolio has grown by 3% across all hours and by 2% in peak this year."

Over on ITV1, figures dropped 0.95% from last year to a 15.15% share. Its ratings would have been worse if it wasn't for the premiere of The X Factor, which pulled in just under 10 million viewers at the end of the month. Elsewhere, BBC1 reportedly saw its worst monthly all-time share of 19.5%.

The channels all launch their autumn schedules this week, and they're hoping their additional prime-time programmes and newly-acquired American shows will help lift their figures and claw back some viewers from the digital and satellite competition. An ITV spokesperson told The Guardian: "With a host of original new and returning drama and soaps, major entertainment, factual series and live football, ITV1's viewers and advertisers can look forward to a strong autumn schedule ahead."

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