- guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 6 May 2009 11.00 BST
Bragg, 69, will also be stepping down from his executive role at the broadcaster as ITV Studios controller of arts next summer, when the next series of The South Bank Show ends.
ITV said today that "there are no plans for a further series" of The South Bank Show, but that the broadcaster "will also be looking at opportunities for new arts programming". Bragg is also discussing other potential projects with the broadcaster.
According to an ITV source, Bragg reached his decision to retire next year after negotiations about the future of the show as the broadcaster seeks to cut costs against a backdrop of what executive chairman Michael Grade has called "the horror" of the advertising recession.
ITV1's annual programming budget will fall from £867m last year to £805m this year. By 2010 the ITV1 budget will be £815m, the slight increase reflecting the cost of the football World Cup, before falling again to £750m in 2011, a 13% drop over three years.
Bragg has presented The South Bank Show since its launch in January 1978, with a programme which featured Germaine Greer, Gerald Scarfe and Paul McCartney, and a signature tune by Andrew Lloyd Webber out of Paganini.
He said: "I have decided to leave ITV at the end of my current contract. Sadly, The South Bank Show will not continue beyond the middle of next year.
"I have had the luck and privilege to work with fine programme-makers and with hundreds of the best artists of the last half century. I look forward to ITV's future arts output and wish it the best of luck."
The ITV executive chairman, Michael Grade, who originally commissioned The South Bank Show while at LWT more than 30 years ago, added: "I am immensely proud that over three decades the South Bank Show has become the benchmark for popular arts programming and has consistently won the admiration of audiences and critics. None of this would have happened without Melvyn who has remained the driving force behind the show and has been a great champion of the programme and of ITV."
As MediaGuardian.co.uk revealed in March, Bragg had been given unofficial assurances that next year's series of The South Bank Show would be given the green light. A three-year contract greenlit by the then ITV controller of programmes Simon Shaps in 2007 expires at the end of this year.
However, next year's series will finish in June and is likely only to contain a "handful" of films, according to a source close to the show.
This year's series commission was for 18 films and there are 12 still to run, including editions on the Royal Shakespeare Company, the rock band Coldplay, and the artist Andy Warhol. A film about the BBC comedy Gavin & Stacey is also thought to be in the pipeline.
Today's announcement brings down the curtain on Bragg's long-standing association with ITV, where he enjoyed the unique role of executive, programme-maker and leading presenter.
Bragg started his career at the BBC as a general trainee in 1961, moving on to produce the arts show Monitor in 1963.
He moved to LWT in 1978 to edit and present the South Bank Show, was appointed the company's head of arts in 1982, and its controller of arts and features in 1990.
Bragg is also known for his many programmes on BBC Radio 4, including Start the Week, which he presented for ten years, In Our Time, and The Routes of English, a history of the English language.
Peter Fincham, ITV director of television, said: "Up until the South Bank Show's arrival, this genre had been narrowly focused on classical music, ballet, operas and art.
"Melvyn's energy, passion and enthusiasm to broaden the arts spectrum dramatically changed things overnight with programming featuring popular music, TV drama, photography and films and big names including Francis Ford Coppola, Billy Connolly, Woody Allen and Eric Clapton.
"Melvyn set out to shake up the accepted idea of arts programmes on television and succeeded absolutely. The South Bank Show and Melvyn go hand in hand and given that he has decided to step down we felt that this was the right time to lower the curtain on this series."
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