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Last Updated: Friday, 23 September 2005, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Emmerdale tops ITV 50th ratings
Leah Bracknell
The Emmerdale special saw Leah Bracknell bow out as Zoe Tate
Hour-long special episodes of ITV soaps Emmerdale and The Bill were the top-rated UK TV shows on the commercial channel's 50th anniversary.

An audience of 8.3 million people watched rural soap Emmerdale on Thursday while a live episode of The Bill got 7.9 million viewers.

The highest-rated rival show was BBC One's EastEnders, with 6.6 million.

ITV marked 50 years since it became the UK's first commercial channel on 22 September 1955 with a series of events.

The channel did not have a clean sweep at the top of the ratings as BBC One spy thriller drama Spooks got 6.2 million, beating ITV documentary series 49 Up by 1.3 million in the same timeslot.

The Emmerdale special featured a dramatic court case, an armed siege and a fire, while The Bill Live saw officers at Sun Hill police station being held at gunpoint.

Anniversary survey

Other events to mark the milestone included compilation programmes on the channel's history and the return of former ITV newscasters to present special bulletins.

The Queen is also due to attend a gala dinner next month at London's Guildhall.

FAVOURITE ITV CHARACTERS
Stan and Hilda Ogden (Bernard Youens and Jean Alexander)
1. Stan and Hilda Ogden (Coronation Street)
2. Arthur Daley (Minder)
3. DCI Jane Tennison (Prime Suspect)
4. Emma Peel (The Avengers)
5. George Carter and Jack Regan (The Sweeney)
6. Chief Inspector Morse (Inspector Morse)
7. Kermit the Frog (The Muppet Show)
8. Major Richard Sharpe (Sharpe)
9. DI Jack Frost (A Touch of Frost)
10. Number Six (The Prisoner)
Source: Broadcast

Meanwhile, Coronation Street's Hilda Ogden has topped a second favourite character poll.

The Street's gossip and her husband Stan came top in a survey by Broadcast magazine to find the most popular ITV character, which took place to coincide with the 50th anniversary.

Hilda, who was played by Jean Alexander for 23 years, was also named the UK's favourite soap star in a survey this week for TV Times magazine.

She left the role 18 years ago. Actor Bernard Youens played Stan.

London "dodgy dealer" Arthur Daley, played by George Cole, came second in the Broadcast poll with Prime Suspect's tough lady cop DCI Jane Tennison, finishing third.

The only recent ITV character to make the top 20 was Tanya Turner of Footballers' Wives, played by Zoe Lucker, who came in 19th place.

Six hundred people voted in the broadcast industry magazine poll.


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