BBC1 controller Danny Cohen has moved to quell speculation that the Corporation is concerned about The Voice's falling ratings, claiming: "I don’t get massively engaged week by week in whether we are up or down."
The talent show's Saturday-night spectaculars have shed 2.5 million viewers in the past month, but Cohen said the fall was a symptom of The Voice's extraordinary early success. "The way I look at it," he told The Daily Telegraph, "we have launched the most successful BBC1 entertainment show in over a decade. We didn’t expect such high ratings at the start - shows like X Factor started on around 5 million."
Cohen, who personally decided to spend an estimated £20-30m on the format rights to The Voice, added: "I genuinely couldn’t be happier. It is a quality series and audiences are responding to it.”
Although Cohen didn't rule out changes to the panel for series two - which he is already committed to showing on BBC1 - Cohen did say of Jessie J, Tom Jones, will.i.am and Danny O'Donoghue: "I love our judges, I think they are amazing."
Leaving aside Cohen's slip of the tongue in calling the celebrity panel "judges" - in the relentlessly positive world of The Voice, they are of course properly referred to as "coaches" - his insistence that ratings are not of prime importance is at odds with the BBC's triumphant weekly announcements of how many viewers watched the early episodes, when more than 10 million people tuned in.
Cohen's remarks come amid a whirl of negative press around the previously invincible show, sparked by the ratings fall and some unfortunate comments by Jessie J.
The singer/songwriter reportedly said, in an unaired segment of her appearance on The Graham Norton Show, that the coaches looked "lame" during the blind auditions stage - when, for ease of editing, they appeared in the same clothes for four consecutive episodes.
Jessie J has made further damaging remarks in an interview with Company magazine to be published this Friday, during which she seems to regret being the first celebrity to announce her decision to appear. "I was first to sign up because I was totally up for it," the 24-year-old star says. "But when Tom Jones said he waited until he knew the line-up, I thought I should have, too."
Yesterday, RadioTimes.com users agreed that The Voice has lost some of its initial sparkle, with many observing that, since the move to live shows, the programme is no longer much different to The X Factor or Britain's Got Talent.
"The gimmicks have gone," commented Sean T. "There is nothing left but the standard singing contest, which we have all seen before. There is nothing unique about the show any more and as a result... it's all a bit meh."
John Gilbert agreed: "It's no longer about the voice - they've thrown in dancers, flashing lights and backing singers... they need to get the [rotating] chairs - and "blind listening" - back in in some way."
"They could still use the spinning chairs," MarilynDHunter rather ingeniously suggested. "They could turn away when the singers are awful. That way they could avoid the insincere positive comments - the contestant could end up singing to the back of the chairs, and getting no feedback. Cruel but harsh."
The Voice returns this Saturday at 6.10pm on BBC1.