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X Factor and Strictly end TV ratings war

The ratings war between The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing may be at an end.

Jay Hunt, the controller of BBC1, has said she would no longer be alarmed if Strictly Come Dancing, the BBC's most popular show, attracted smaller audiences than its ITV competitor. A fierce scheduling war between the two angered viewers last year.

"I don't think it would matter in a pure sense, I don't regard it as a competition between us and ITV," she said, adding that it was still important that BBC1 programmes commanded large audiences. "I don't think it matters, frankly, where we are relative to ITV."

Ms Hunt, who refused to comment on intense speculation that she will be applying to become chief creative officer at Channel 4, was speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival after the BBC's director-general, Mark Thompson, made a key speech attacking the dominance of the British media by BSkyB and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (which is the satellite broadcaster's largest shareholder).

The BBC1 controller's comments were a further suggestion that the BBC no longer sees itself in competition with its traditional rival ITV -- which Mr Thompson said had never been as powerful a competitor as BSkyB is now.

She said: "[Ratings] matter, but they don't matter hugely."

She cited recent BBC1 programmes on the arts, including one about Picasso, saying they were not designed to attract vast audiences. "Not everything we do is about being hugely competitive."

She said: "I don't think it matters particularly if Strictly Come Dancing was beaten in the ratings by The X Factor." Reminded of the previous rivalries, she said: "Yes, it did last year and it did the year before and everybody got terribly excited by that, but at the end of the day the final was watched by more than 11 million people.

"It's still our highest rating entertainment show by a very long stretch."

hnews@herald.ie