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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Falklands Play proves digital hit
Patricia Hodge
Patricia Hodge played Mrs Thatcher
The long-awaited broadcast of The Falklands Play, which remained shelved for 16 years has proved a ratings hit for the BBC's newest digital channel.

The dramatisation of the events leading up the Argentine invasion of the Falklands Islands in 1982 went out on BBC Four, the corporation's arts and culture station.

The play, based on the first two days of the conflict, attracted a record audience of 174,000 at its peak, giving the channel its highest ever audience.

BBC Four, which launched in March, has come under fire for the low viewer numbers it has been attracting, with some programmes watched by just 5,000 people.

Patricia Hewitt
The play was shelved because of a general election

The BBC commissioned the Falklands play from Ian Curteis in 1986, but shelved it because of its pro-Margaret Thatcher stance ahead of a general election.

The then BBC controller, Michael Grade, took offence to what he called its jingoistic tone.

The covers were then firmly kept on the script until this year, in time for the 20th anniversary of the Falklands war.

Patricia Hodge took the part of Mrs Thatcher in both the television and radio adaptation, which was aired on Radio 4 on Saturday.

Failure

She was supported by an ensemble cast including James Fox and Robert Hardy.

Audience figures built up from 68,000 at 2100 BST to a high of 174,000 between 2200 and 2215 BST, with an average rating of 121,000.

Arts and culture channels are considered niche viewing, but the BBC is hoping ratings will build up in time as people become aware of its existence and digital television ownership rises.

No decision has been taken on whether Falklands Play will be given a screening on terrestrial television.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Reviews
Falklands drama makes tardy debut
29 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
Lord of the Rings back on Radio 4
13 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Thatcher rejects Falklands trip
22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Margaret Thatcher: Tory titan
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