Britain's terrestrial TV channels stagnated in overall viewing terms during the first half of 2003, according to the latest data from BARB (Broadcasters' Audience Research Board).

ITV had more reasons to be cheerful than most, staunching last year’s ratings haemorrhage. Although H1 viewing levels dipped 3% year-on-year from 24.6% to 23.8%, this was a dramatic improvement on 2002’s 13% slide.

BBC1 won the highest ratings in Q1, snatching a 27.9% share of viewing in March thanks to its rolling coverage of the war on Iraq. Across H1 as a whole, however, the channel’s slice of the cake dipped to 26%, down from 26.2% in the comparable period last year.

Channel Four failed to reverse its continuing decline, posting 9.5% share – the first time its viewership has fallen below the ten per cent level in over a decade.

A C4 spokesman attempted to play down the ongoing decline: “We don’t sell advertising on overall share, we sell key demographics. We’re pretty much level, compared to last year, on 16 to 34-year-olds and ABC1s in peak time.”

Five’s continued scrabble upmarket held ratings steady at 6.3%, thanks largely to the appeal of its Oz soap, Home and Away.

Other viewing (BSkyB, Freeview and cable) ended the first half to June 1 with 23.2% share. In multichannel homes ITV1 and BBC1 ran level, each with around 19.6% viewing share.

Data sourced from: and BARB website; additional content by WARC staff