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Sunday, 3 November, 2002, 12:00 GMT
Deayton furore proves ratings hit
Paul Merton hosting Have I Got News For You
Paul Merton (right) stood in for Deayton on Friday
The first edition of Have I Got News For You since the sacking of host Angus Deayton has attracted the highest audience of the series.

An average of 6.6 million people watched stand-in host Paul Merton preside over Friday's show.

Sanjeev Bhaskar and Stephen Fry
Sanjeev Bhaskar and Stephen Fry: Possible replacements
Deayton was sacked on Tuesday when the BBC decided that continued revelations about his private life made him the subject of too many jibes on the show.

A different guest will stand in as chairman every week until a permanent replacement is found, with Anne Robinson the next to be lined up.

Comedian Stephen Fry and presenter Clive Anderson have emerged as public favourites to fill the hot seat.

It was reported on Monday that Sanjeev Bhaskar - the host of spoof chat show The Kumars at No 42 - was also being considered by producers.

But a BBC spokesman said: "There has been no decision at all on who is going to replace Angus."

Friday's show was watched by 29% of the available TV audience, with more tuning in for a repeat on Saturday.

Angus Deayton on Have I Got News For You
Angus Deayton had presented the show for 12 years
Viewers saw Merton and guests ridicule Deayton, with Merton saying: "I'd like to thank Angus for all his efforts in entertaining vast numbers of the general public over the years.

"How he found the energy to do this show as well I'll never know."

But not all viewers took such delight in Deayton's departure.

More than 150 people complained to the BBC about the presenter's sacking.

Ian Hislop, who captains one of the teams, said Deayton had to go because personal life was overshadowing everything else.

"No-one expected him to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, but it is not really possible to present a satirical programme if you are seen to be sleazier than the people you are making jokes about," he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

He was "angry" that Deayton put him in the position where he had to "have a go at him again" - something he did not enjoy, he added.

See also:

01 Nov 02 | Entertainment
30 Oct 02 | Entertainment
30 Oct 02 | Entertainment
31 Oct 02 | Talking Point
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