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Official: British telly really is almost all repeats

Traditional viewer grumble made real by digital era

The BBC HD Testcard

One thing you can say about the rise of digital telly: there are now more repeats shown on British television than at any time since 2003.

In decades gone by, Brits would regularly moan about the number of repeats on the box - "another Christmas, another showing of The Great Escape" - but it's hard to imagine that repeats accounted for nearly half of all broadcasts.

But, according to Ofcom figures released today, that was the case in 2008.

Incidentally, we should thank, first, the UK's telecommunications and broadcasting regulator for finally putting out numbers that are almost a year out of date, a fact that many a news story today about Britain's digital viewing habits has cheerfully ignored.

Surely, Ofcom, you could have waited just a few weeks and included up-to-date numbers from 2009 too? Eleven months is a long time in the digital revolution, and past trends may easily have been bucked.

It's hard to see a change in the growing proportion of repeats being shown, though. Ofcom's numbers show a steady rise in the percentage of old programmes being given a fresh airing over the years, from 34.5 per cent in 2003 to 44.8 per cent in 2008.

At this rate, it won't be long before British telly really will consist mostly of repeats.

Over the same period, the transmission of new, home-made shows has fallen from 58.8 per cent to 50.1 per cent.

Overseas acquisitions have fallen, from 6.7 per cent in 2003 to 4.7 per cent on 2008, though this comes after peaking at 7.8 per cent in 2006.

So we're not being shown nothing but US cop shows, despite what some bar-room pundits may say.

In fact, we're shown the least amount bought-in material of any country in Europe. Ireland tops the chart with more than 30 per cent of programmes there originating outside the country.

Still, we're not being fed a full diet of repeats just yet. Sweden is closest, with re-broadcasted material accounting for 52.1 per cent of the total output. Italy does best: there, repeats account for only 22.3 per cent of broadcast output - or did in 2008. ®

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