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Tuesday, 21 November, 2000, 13:25 GMT
Millionaire wins ratings fight
Judith Keppel and Chris Tarrant at a press conference on Monday
Judith Keppel is Millionaire's first jackpot winner
Almost 14 million people saw Judith Keppel walk off with the first jackpot prize on ITV's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, according to early audience figures.

The top-rated quiz drew 13.9 million viewers, against 10.7 million tuning in to see the demise of grumpy Victor Meldrew in the final One Foot In The Grave on BBC One.

Judith Keppel
Payday: Judith Keppel said she never expected to win
Millionaire took 48% of the total audience, while the BBC comedy, starting 15 minutes later at 2115 GMT, attracted 36% of the audience.

Mrs Keppel scooped the 1m prize when she correctly answered "Henry II" to the question: "Which king was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine?"

But more than a million viewers switched sides after she won - with ITV's audience dropping to 12.7 million, and BBC One's audience rising to 11.6 million.

Despite the competition, One Foot In The Grave's overall audience was still one million more than usual.

ITV said it was "absolutely thrilled" with the figures, while the BBC was "delighted" with its showing - and expects Victor Meldrew's final audience to rise by a further million when video viewing is taken into account.

"I'm sure Victor Meldrew couldn't believe it that the figures were so great, despite what ITV tried to throw at it," a BBC spokeswoman said.

Victor Meldrew's death
More than a million viewers switched sides to see Meldrew die
"One Foot In The Grave has always been a popular show and it was an excellent evening for the BBC."

The figures add fuel to the battle for ratings between BBC One and ITV, sparked a month ago when the BBC moved its main evening new bulletin to 10pm.

Millionaire presenter Chris Tarrant has denied questions on the programme were made easier to help create its first jackpot winner.

Tarrant said: "The questions are hard. We refused to dumb the question down.

"We said it will happen one night. We always said it would come out of the blue and it has."

Mrs Keppel, 58, a distant cousin of the Prince of Wales' friend Camilla Parker Bowles, won the prize on the show's 122nd edition.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Chris Tarrant denied the questions had been made easier
Mrs Keppel, a garden designer from Fulham in west London, is married to a TV scriptwriter and has two grown-up children.

Her great grandmother was the sister of Mrs Parker Bowles' great great grandfather.

"I'm not a gambler. I'm the opposite of gambling. I've never really won any money before," she told reporters.

Mrs Keppel now finds herself thrust into the spotlight as ITV fetes its jackpot winner.

Chris Tarrant defended her from criticism after newspapers focused on her blue-blooded roots.

"She can't help the fact she talks nicely," he told ITV's This Morning programme.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
You're in the money now: Chris Tarrant kisses his winner
"She can't help the fact she's not a school dinner lady, or a single mum on income support."

The friend she phoned for help with a question on Shakespeare - Jilly Greenwood - also moved to deflect criticism after it was revealed she works for ITV company Granada.

Ms Greenwood said she had nothing to do with Celador, the production company which makes the show for ITV.

"We checked it out before Judith went on the programme," she added.

News that someone had finally won the jackpot was leaked before the show was broadcast.

An ITV spokesman said: "We are very disappointed that news of this was leaked in advance of transmission.

"We really wanted to keep it a secret so as not to spoil viewers' enjoyment of the programme."

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See also:

20 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Questions on the path to 1m
21 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Millionaire moments
21 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Thaw and Wilson reincarnated
20 Nov 00 | Europe
Briton flush with 1m poker prize
03 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Millionaire contestant wins 500,000
13 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Wilson mellow after Meldrew
15 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Both feet in the grave
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