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Friday, 1 December, 2000, 17:20 GMT
BBC says sorry in ratings row
Judith Keppel and Chris Tarrant
Judith Keppel's win boosted ITV's ratings
The BBC has apologised to ITV for comments suggesting the network fixed its hit quiz Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? to win a ratings battle.

Press reports last week quoted a "BBC insider" as suggesting ITV fixed the show's first million-pound prize to coincide with the final episode of hit sitcom One Foot In The Grave on 20 November.

But now the corporation has apologised to its commercial rival, blaming the reports on "an overzealous press briefing", adding it did not represent the official view of the BBC.

The BBC does not believe there was any 'manipulation' or 'fixing' involved in Millionaire

BBC statement
A statement read: "We can only apologise to all involved for the subsequent press coverage and any harm it has done.

"The BBC does not believe there was any 'manipulation' or 'fixing' involved in Millionaire.

"Any such suggestion did not represent the official view of the BBC."

In return, an ITV spokesperson said: "We said at the time that these suggestions were completely unfounded and so are grateful to the BBC for setting the record straight."

The apology comes after ITV chairman Leslie Hill wrote to the chairman of the BBC governors, Sir Christopher Bland, to complain about the issue.

Judith Keppel's 1m win on Millionaire coincided with the killing-off of One Foot In The Grave's central character, Victor Meldrew.

The Millionaire win had been leaked to the press, and the resulting publicity helped ITV to a ratings victory over BBC One, according to early figures.

Richard Wilson as Victor Meldrew
Killed off: Richard Wilson as Victor Meldrew
Actor Richard Wilson, who played Meldrew - weighed into the row the following day by saying the timing was "ever so slightly suspicious".

But the corporation said that it should have given more emphasis to the fact that both channels were offering a "fantastic night" of programming.

"ITV had its flagship quiz show and BBC One had distinctive comedy," it said.

The BBC statement continued: "An overzealous press briefing commented that Millionaire had previously had big winners against other high-profile BBC programmes, inviting some journalists to draw the inference that this might be more than a coincidence.

"This was wrong. We have already taken steps to ensure that this kind of incident is not repeated."

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See also:

01 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Millionaire 'toff' fights back
22 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Wilson: Millionaire win 'planned'
21 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Millionaire wins ratings fight
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