ITV's axes long-running cop series 'The Bill'

Talkback Thames-produced drama ends after 27 years

LONDON – It has been one of ITV's longest running shows, but after 27 years on air, the South London cop show "The Bill" has been axed, director of television Peter Fincham confirmed Friday.

Based in the fictitious area of Sun Hill, the Talkback Thames-produced drama had moved into a primetime 9 p.m. hourlong slot last year after almost three decades in first a weekly and then a twice-weekly half hour slot at 8 p.m.

However, the move failed to deliver the anticipated uplift in ratings, with audiences falling from seven million to 2.5 million over five years.

ITV's Fincham paid tribute to the show's legacy and long service, but said that the broadcaster would reinvest the amount it paid on the show into other shorter-run dramas to take its place in the Thursday 9 p.m. slot.

"Whilst 'The Bill' will come to an end in 2010, we will continue to invest more in drama programming than any commercial broadcaster in the U.K.," he said. "Times change and so do the tastes of our audience."

The cancellation and the loss of commission will be a major blow for Talkback Thames, the RTL Group-owned U.K. production company, which gave many of the U.K.'s top writing, directing and producing talent a training ground on the show in which to perfect their art.

The show had employed over 90 employees, and while efforts are being made to find a home for the show on another network, if they prove unsuccessful then production will be shut down.

"The Bill" is currently on air in 22 countries, with local language versions in Germany, Sweden and Austria, and will likely still prove a library sales success overseas despite coming off air in the U.K.

Talkback Thames chief executive Lorraine Heggessey said the show was signing out "on a creative and editorial high."
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