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Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 14:38 GMT
Ratings dip for News At Ten
BBC's Ten O'Clock News
The BBC bulletin maintained the same number of viewers
Viewing figures for ITV's re-launched News At Ten dropped by more than two million on the second night of broadcast.

ITV's bulletin, fronted by Sir Trevor McDonald, saw its ratings go down from 8.1 million viewers to to 5.9 million.

Viewing figures for the BBC's 10 O'Clock News, fronted by Peter Sissons, stayed the same at 4.4 million.

The BBC and ITV went head-to-head with their 10 o'clock news bulletins for the first time on Monday night.

Sir Trevor McDonald
Sir Trevor was watched by more than 8 million on Monday

First night viewing figures on ITV were helped by Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, which was screened immediately before the bulletin and attracted more than 11 million viewers.

There was also no commercial break between the quiz, hosted by Chris Tarrant, and the 16-minute-long news bulletin, which started two minutes late.

A spokeswoman for ITV commented: "We wouldn't expect our news viewing figures to be the same every night.

"We particularly recognise the impact following the huge draw of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

"However, at the same time, it is immensely gratifying to see we are pulling in more viewers than the BBC bulletin, which has been in place much longer.

"It proves that the public recognise the absolute quality of our news coverage."

On Tuesday, ITV's bulletin inherited an audience of 8.8 million viewers from medical drama series Peak Practice.

The figure dropped to 5.9 million once the news had begun - even though ITV once again ended the drama after 2200, starting News At Ten at 2202 without a commercial break between the programmes.

BBC One had an audience of 4.4 million for the second episode of its crime drama Second Sight, starring Clive Owen. The number of viewers stayed the same for the 10 O'Clock News.

Perhaps the real ratings winner on Tuesday night was Channel 5 with its movie The Rock.

The action thriller starring Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery went out between 2100 and 2340. It was a repeat but still managed to draw 3.4 million viewers.

Culture Secretary Chris Smith has said he has "personal misgivings" about the clash between the news bulletins.

He added that he would be watching to ensure the overall audience for news on the two channels did not suffer.

BBC director general Greg Dyke decided to move the corporation's nine o'clock news back an hour in the schedules last August.

ITV was ordered to return News At Ten to the schedules after its move to 11pm in 1999 had seen viewings figures fall.

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See also:

23 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Duel at Ten for news bulletins
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News At Ten returns to ITV
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BBC warned over 10pm news slot
03 Oct 00 | UK
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News At Ten rethink urged
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Sky battles ITN for news contract
23 Jan 01 | Entertainment
First blood to ITV in news battle
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