LONDON: High profile TV honcho Michael Grade (pictured, left), quondam chairman of the BBC and recently arrived Knight in Shining Armour at ITV, the UK's largest commercial broadcaster, has a tougher job on his hands than even he might have believed

As the latest BARB (Broadcasters Audience Research Board) ratings for the year's first quarter spell out with painful clarity.

As digital TV grabs an ever increasing share of the total UK viewing market, it is accepted within the industry that non-digital TV will continue its slide into eventual oblivion in 2012 when the analogue signal is switched off.

Even so, BARB's latest figures show flagship channel ITV1's total share of TV viewing sagged 4.9% compared with BBC1's dip of just 0.6%. The decline underscores the challenge facing Grade, now ITV's executive chairman, and his director of television Simon Shaps.

The latter, speaking to the Daily Telegraph last December, confided: "ITV1's performance compared to the other terrestrial channels has to be stronger in 2007 than it was in 2006. [We are] on course, we believe, to deliver a much better performance relative to the other terrestrial channels, including the BBC, than we did in 2006.''

However, in the light of the latest data ITV appears to have veered from that course.

Insists a math-trussed spokesman: "ITV1's percentage share decline has improved by almost 50% year-on-year. Channel 4, BBC2 and Five have all suffered heavier declines across the first quarter of 2007. To combine the terrestrial channels' share decline and compare it solely to ITV1's is a completely distorted comparative.

''We are just three months into 2007 and ITV1 has a strong line-up of programming still to come.''

Meantime, company shareholders hope it will not be too much longer before Grade - an acknowledge scheduling wizard - pulls ITV's sword from the stone.

Mirroring the plunge in viewing, ad revenues at ITV1 fell some 8% year-on-year in Q1 2007.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff