'Neighbours' was axed to make way for UK shows, says Channel 5 boss

Neighbours cast
Neighbours will end on 29 July. (Channel 5)

Neighbours fans have been devastated by the news that the long-running Australian soap is being axed, but Channel 5's head of programming has defended the decision saying that it had to go to make space for UK shows.

The Melbourne-set soap began in 1985 and was a huge hit in the UK, launching the careers of stars including Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce and Margot Robbie.

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But earlier this year, Channel 5 announced it was being axed from their schedules, and with no other UK broadcaster secured to take it on, the soap was unable to find enough funding to continue.

It filmed its last scenes in June and will air its finale double-bill on 29 July.

Harold consoles Mackenzie on Neighbours. (Channel 5)
Ian Smith will return as Harold Bishop. (Channel 5)

Channel 5's Ben Frow has explained the decision to Radio Times, saying that he felt the money needed to save Neighbours could be better spent elsewhere on homegrown shows.

To the suggestion that he could have spent large sums of money on keeping the show going, he replied: “Yes. Or I could spend the money on other things, which is what I decided to do. I can better spend the Neighbours money on UK shows.”

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Not everyone blames Channel 5 for the cancellation, as Ian Smith who plays Harold Bishop recently said that he thought the Australian government should have stepped in to save the soap.

Frow denied that Home And Away, another Australian soap, is now under threat of being cancelled.

He said: “No. But I think it will be interesting to see what we do with it as we evolve. There might be somewhere else to put it in the 5 spectrum.

“But it’s a life-of-series deal, so it’s not going anywhere until the makers decide to cancel it.”

Many of Neighbours' best-loved stars will return for the final episode, with Minogue and Donovan recently releasing a photo of themselves back together on Ramsay Street in character as Charlene and Scott.

Pearce will also return to his role as Mike Young and said that filming the finale felt "like coming home".

Watch: Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan reunite on Neighbours set