Viewers want more time for digs.

2013 sees the 21st series of popular archaeological series Time Team air on Channel 4. However it is also to be the shows last after two decades on air.

Now fans of the show have decided to try and campaign to save the series fronted by Tony Robinson. The demise of Time Team has been put down to an ill-planned move from London to Cardiff in 2011 which saw virtually all the behind-the-scenes staff leave the programme.

Carly Hilts of archaeology.co.uk noted, “Expertise honed over 15 years was lost at a stroke, to be replaced by crew and production staff who knew neither each other nor archaeology. Despite some great new people who learnt fast, expecting them to produce the same calibre of product immediately was just too big a demand.”

Another factor was television’s obsession with ‘youth’. The over 40s have the most money to spend, however this seems unimportant to advertisers who chase the twenty-something’s. Time Team appealed to families and the over 45’s age bracket research showed, and Channel 4 decided to give the show an overhaul, axing some ‘older experts’ for ‘younger faces’ which saw ratings fall from over one million to 700,000.

The programme also, in cost-cutting times, is a big investment for the broadcaster, costing up to £200,000 per-episode to create, expensive in factual documentary.

However the show has a strong legion of followers, many who take part in their own historic hobbies, and believe the programme – if produced in its most popular format – could once again remain a fixture in the Channel 4 schedules with new episodes for another two decades at least.

Channel 4 have stated while Time Team will no longer air as a series there will be future specials. The programme has already produced 40 one-off ‘event TV’ moments with live editions pulling in viewers. The broadcaster also promises that the series will continue to be repeated on More4 and occasionally Channel 4.

“I am incredibly proud that, as well as providing hundreds of hours of education and entertainment on Channel 4, Time Team has invested, over and above production costs, more than £4m in archaeology in Britain over the past 18 years. Time Team will continue to be on our screens for at least a further two years and we are discussing other ideas around archaeology with Tim Taylor, Time Team’s creator and the production team behind it.” said Head of Factual Ralph Lee at the time of the shows axing last year.

Time Team began life as a four-part special in 1991 entitled Timesigns, with future Time Team experts Mick Aston and Phil Harding leading the show.

A never-broadcast episode of Time Team was produced in 1992, but as a historic quiz format, Channel 4 decided this route wouldn’t work. Tony Robinson joined proceedings as the show was revamped again into the more well known factual documentary series which has screened over 250 episodes since Time Team hit the air in 1994.

Tony Robinson says of the show, “Time Team was not only high-quality public service television; it also attracted a large and passionate audience both in the UK and overseas. I’m proud to have been associated with it.”

Twenty years of Time Team will be celebrated in the last programme of the final series. The digs have provided a wealth of information and research material currently stored by Wessex Archaeology. Channel 4, along with the programme makers Videotext and Picture house TV will work to maintain this archive as part of Time Team’s academic legacy.

“Its an amazing programme and is only one of its kind, there is a programme in the works called Dig Village but there is nothing better than watching archaeologists and metal detectorists unearthing history on a Sunday afternoon. Get behind us and lets at least go down fighting, having 20 series shows there is interest to still carry it on, maybe Channel 5, Yesterday or the Discovery UK channel could take it on?” Says Lee Brady who is campaigning to keep the show as a series format.

You can sign the petition here. There are also campaign pages on Twitter and Facebook.

[Sources: Lee Brady, archaeology.co.uk and Channel 4 Press Office]

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