Fury as Christmas repeats soar


More TV repeats than ever will be shown on Christmas Day, Daily Mail research reveals.

Over half the programmes are reruns - almost twice as many as last year and more than five times the number broadcast in 1997.

Of the 138 programmes listed for December 25 in terrestrial schedules, only 63 are new.

Children suffer most from the lack of new programming, with the majority of repeats screened at times when younger viewers are watching.

The most commonly-repeated show is a particular episode of children's series The Hoobs, which has been screened on Christmas Day six times in as many years.

Not surprisingly, Morecambe and Wise are among the most frequent schedule-fillers.

Their shows have been repeated four times on December 25 since 1997.

This year, the duo's Christmas specials compilation show, first seen in 1995, is part of BBC1's schedule.

However, it seems only BBC1 has learnt its lesson from last year -reducing its repeats from 11 to six.

BBC2 repeats have risen from ten in 2002 to 19 this year, including two episodes of Michael Palin's Around the World in 80 Days.

"All of our repeats are classic high-quality programming which people love to watch," said a BBC2 spokesman.

"Our late-night repeats of comedy like Room 101 and The Fast Show were hugely popular last year and we are sure that will be the case this year."

Five is the worst offender, with 19 reruns on December 25, including three war documentaries and the film A Man Called Horse.

Last year, the channel screened 12 repeats.

ITV1 has the most marked increase, with 16 Christmas Day repeats compared to four last year.

A spokesman said: "Our Christmas Day schedule plays to ITV's strengths and includes two huge entertainment events - World Idol and Celebrity Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? - as well as classic Christmas films."

Channel 4 has almost doubled its reruns, from eight in 2002 to 15 this year, including repeats of Jason and the Argonauts and

Smack the Pony.

"The vast majority of our repeats are either early in the morning or late at night," said a spokesman.

"There is some repeated material during the day, but it's either classic films or popular shows like Friends."

The Mail's investigation, supported by research from the Liberal Democrats, also reveals that, while viewers in 1997 could choose from 31 movies across the five channels, this year just 21 are on offer.

Network film premieres make up less than a third of these.

Five does not feature a single film that hasn't already been in its line-up.

ITV1 and BBC 2 are both screening one film premiere, while BBC1 and Channel 4 are showing two each.

BBC1 will show The Tigger Movie and Stuart Little, while Channel 4 will screen Muppets from Space and Amelie.

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat culture, media and sport spokesman, said: "Everyone looks forward to seeing their old favourites over Christmas, but the repeats this year are way off the mark.

"They are not the real classics like The African Queen and Star Wars but simply a cheap and easy way to prop up the TV schedules.

"Christmas is the time of year when more people have the chance to sit down and enjoy television.

"The broadcasters have shown a lack of ambition in producing so few new programmes or Christmas specials.

"Unless the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five show some imagination urgently, Christmas Day will soon seem like wall-to-wall UK Gold.'

Until recently, of course, the terrestrial channels had a stranglehold over family entertainment during the Christmas period.

Now many households have satellite TV and can also watch films on DVD and video.

Despite the glut of repeats, television this Christmas does have it highlights.

Eagerly-awaited is the return of Del Boy and Rodney on Christmas Day in what looks likely to be the last-ever festive special of Only Fools and Horses.

In Sleepless In Peckham, the Trotters have only two weeks to find the cash to pay the Inland Revenue after living the high life in Monte Carlo or face eviction from their home.

The BBC's Christmas Night With The Stars should also prove a major success.

Michael Parkinson will present, among others, Victoria Beckham, Denise Van Outen, Will Young and boy band Busted.

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