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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
BBC Three denies ratings 'failure'
Johnny Vaughan (l) and Johnny Vegas
Johnny Vaughan (l) with Johnny Vegas is among the channel's stars
The BBC has defended viewing figures for BBC Three, its digital channel for 25 to 34-year-olds, amid reports it is suffering poor ratings.

One episode of The News Show at the height of the Iraqi war failed to register a single viewer, according to figures from the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (Barb).

In reality the "zero" rating for 28 March means it was likely to have had some viewers - but no more than a few hundred.

However, a BBC Three spokeswoman said most TV viewers had opted for rolling 24 hour news coverage of the conflict.

With BBC Three in general, no way are we failing
BBC spokeswoman

"It's very unfair to pick out that one day when most multi-channel viewers would have gone to the rolling news networks," she said.

She said The News Show was maintaining an average of 30 to 40,000 viewers per episode, and had reached more than 90,000.

Away from the news, other ratings on the network have also been reportedly disappointing.

The audience for BBC Three's 20-part documentary series about footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones has fallen to about 10,000.

Swiss Toni
Swiss Toni, played by
But the BBC said the figures had been reported in isolation when digital ratings had fallen across the board.

"With BBC Three in general, no way are we failing," said the spokeswoman.

She said the network's average share of the audience since BBC Three's launch on 9 February had been 2.1% - more than double the audience for its predecessor, BBC Choice.

"The general average is still 65-75,000 viewers," she said.

BBC Three provides a mixture of comedy, documentaries, celebrity profiles and news.

It is broadcast from 7pm to 4am each day on cable, satellite and Freeview. Part of its remit is to meet certain minimum levels of arts, current affairs, business and religious programming.

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