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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 13:43 GMT
BBC and Sky battle over news figures
Sky News
Millions switched to news channels on 11 September
The BBC's 24-hour news channel has closed the gap on Sky News in the ratings battle between UK rolling news services, according to viewing figures.

BBC News 24 increased its audience by one million people in the last year, according to the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (Barb).

It was watched by 3.3 million people per week in multi-channel homes in the first two months of 2002, the figures show.

But Sky says BBC News 24's strong performance is down to the fact that the BBC channel is available in one million more homes than Sky News.

'Advantage'

Sky News is still the most-watched rolling news channel in the UK, attracting 3.5 million digital or cable viewers per week - up 400,000 in the last 12 months.

Roger Mosey, the BBC's head of television news, said the figures showed that Sky had lost the advantage it had by launching eight years earlier than BBC News 24, in 1989.

Gavin Esler
Gavin Esler is a presenter on BBC News 24
"In just over four years, BBC News 24 has gone from zero to being neck-and-neck with Sky," he said.

BBC News 24 was the fastest-growing news channel in the UK, he added.

But a Sky spokesman said the Barb figures did not let the channels compete on a level playing field.

They did not take into account the fact that homes with digital terrestrial TV, such as ITV Digital, could not receive Sky News but could get BBC News 24, he said.

"If you compare the figures in Sky Digital homes, where both channels are available to the same number of people, the results show that the gap... is maintained, and is actually slightly widening," the Sky spokesman told BBC News Online.

Nominations

Sky News was recently named news channel of the year at the Royal Television Society (RTS) Awards - but the BBC also won several prizes, including the news event award for its coverage of the fall of Kabul.

The same coverage also recently earned BBC News a nomination for a Bafta TV Award.

But it was the only news broadcaster not to be nominated for its coverage of 11 September.

ITN was nominated twice - for the reports it provided for ITV and Channel 4.

See also:

24 Dec 01 | TV and Radio
BBC claims news ratings victory
07 Jan 02 | TV and Radio
Sky News debuts on Channel 5
19 Mar 02 | TV and Radio
Touch down for Sky
06 Mar 02 | TV and Radio
Digital revolution starts here
15 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
BBC news move 'halts decline'
01 Aug 00 | UK
ITN joins all-news battle
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