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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 10:36 GMT
Millionaire? cleared of ratings 'fix'
Judith Keppel and Chris Tarrant at a press conference on Monday
Judith Keppel was Millionaire's first jackpot win
ITV quiz Who Wants to be a Millionaire? has been cleared of "fixing" the first jackpot win on quiz show in order to beat BBC One in the ratings.

Eleven viewers complained to the Independent Television Commission (ITC) after Mrs Judith Keppel's triumph beat the final episode of One Foot in the Grave - featuring the death of TV favourite Victor Meldrew - on 20 November.

But on Monday the ITC decided the show had not breached its programme code and cleared it of all allegations of "rigging" the schedules.

One Foot in the Grave was expected to be a huge ratings hit for the corporation as it drew a curtain over Victor's 10-year TV presence.

Richard Wilson
Wilson said scheduling was "suspicious"

However, in the end the 1m win by Mrs Keppel - the biggest in the show's and British TV's history - proved too great a draw, beating it by more than three million viewers.

Celador, the quiz show's producers, has rejected accusations of "fixing", saying it took its impartiality very seriously and would not put its integrity at risk.

Audience figures showed 13.9 million viewers watched Who Wants to be a Millionaire? as opposed to 10.7 million for Victor's demise.

Millionaire took 48% of the total audience, while the BBC comedy, starting 15 minutes later at 2115 GMT, attracted 36% of the audience.

Leak

The Millionaire win - filmed the Sunday before broadcast - had been leaked to the press, and the resulting publicity helped ITV to a ratings victory over BBC One.

ITV broadcaster Carlton said a member of the audience, which had been sworn to secrecy, broke the story against its wishes.

The ITC ruling follows a formal apology from the BBC itself after a source from within the corporation expressed concerns over the fact that Mrs Keppel's win coincided with Victor's death.

Actor Richard Wilson, who played Meldrew, weighed into the row the day after broadcast by saying the timing was "ever so slightly suspicious".

One Foot in the Grave was one of the UK's best-loved comedies, drawing 18 million viewers at its peak.

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.

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See also:

22 Nov 00 | Entertainment
The Millionaires' club
21 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Millionaire wins ratings fight
20 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Questions on the path to 1m
21 Nov 00 | UK
Is trivia worth knowing?
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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