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Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Men in Black win ratings battle
Will Smith in Men in Black
Where there's a Will: BBC wins latest round of ratings war
Men in Black has helped the BBC win the latest round in the ratings war with ITV.

The sci-fi comedy, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, drew an average audience of 9.8m on Tuesday evening, more than two million higher than ITV's offering, A Touch of Frost.

A one-off ITV news bulletin at 2100 BST, the slot recently vacated by BBC News, drew an impressive 8.5m viewers as people tuned in for information on the Hatfield rail crash.

Jeremy Paxman
Enigmatic: Newsnight, presented by Jeremy Paxman, sees viewing figures rise
But the BBC's new 10 O'Clock news programme also impressed - attracting 6.1m viewers, almost one million higher than the average for the old Nine O'Clock news.

The most competitive scheduling battle between ITV and BBC for years was prompted by the corporation's decision to shift its main news programme back by one hour.

Early figures show that the BBC dominated the peak time (6.30pm to 10.30pm) slot on Tuesday with 37.5% of viewers, compared with ITV's 33.4%.

An ITV spokesman said the network was very pleased with audience figures for its one-off news bulletin.

"This was part of ITV's regular commitment to breaking into our schedule to bring viewers major stories," he said.

The ratings battle between BBC One's new schedule and ITV ended all square on Monday night, with victories for both channels.

Battle continues

"If the audiences are that good [at 9pm] it will be interesting to see if ITV will continue its news at that time," a BBC spokesman said of ITV's news audience figures.

Bosses at the BBC will be encouraged by a rise in audience figures for BBC2's Newsnight programme, which immediately follows the main news .

On Tuesday night Jeremy Paxman unravelled the mystery of the missing Enigma coding machine, which was sent to him in the post.

On Tuesday night Newsnight had 1.4m viewers, against an average of 0.9m.

The ratings battle continues tonight with ITV's continued coverage of the Champions League, while the BBC screens the first episode in the news series of The Scarlet Pimpernel, starring Richard E Grant.

See also:

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