The 1966 World Cup final is the most watched TV programme of all time, according to a new survey.
One newspaper round-up that I receive suggests this story - put out by UKTV channel Watch to self-publicise as Richard and Judy launch their new show tonight - got mentions in the Telegraph, the Mirror, the Sun and the Daily Star. Only TNS’s interminable and tedious wrangle with advertising giant WPP – which is trying to take over the market research firm – got more widespread coverage as a media story.
Of course, all media news is competing with the more urgent though less appealing news of the banking crisis. Who cares how many people watched a particular TV programme, if we can’t get our money out of the bank any more to buy food? Then again, if you lose your job and can no longer afford to pay the gas bill, chances are you’ll escape every now and then into TV. The glitzier and less connected with reality the better, which is perhaps why The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing have been doing so well in the ratings.
TV ratings will never match those of 1966 or 1997 for one very simple reason: there are now far more TV channels to choose from, plus a host of other distractions like t’interweb. But still the “highest rating TV programme of all time” story is unearthed every few years and it would be fascinating – but time-consuming – to compare the figures bandied about each time. I had a memory of 29m watching Princess Di’s funeral in 1997. Today’s story says it was 32m. Either way, the top-rating programme list demonstrates the nation’s collective cultural passions: football and the royal family leading them. Sport and celebrity. Nothing changes, everything stays the same.