BBC1's decision to broadcast a special debate on the Iraq crisis proved to be a resounding ratings failure last night (12 February), writes Jon Rogers.

BBC1's decision to broadcast a special debate on the Iraq crisis proved to be a resounding ratings failure last night (12 February), writes Jon Rogers.

For 85-minutes Iraq: Britain Decides - The Debateonly attracted 3.6 million (14.5 per cent share) from 20.30. It peaked at just 4 million at 21.00.

During the broadcast, BBC1 was beaten by both BBC2 and Channel 4. BBC2's Home Frontat 20.00 averaged 3.3 million (13.3 per cent) but slowly built its audience. At 20.55 4.1 million were watching the show while the BBC1 was drawing only 3.5 million. C4's Grand Designsat 21.00 for 60-minutes drew 3.9 million (15.6 per cent) consistently getting the better of BBC1. By 21.55 the show was pulling-in 4.6 million. ITV 1 easily won the slot with The Bill taking 8.2 million (33.5 per cent) and Footballers' Wivesdrawing 6.3 million (25.3 per cent).

BBC1's debate was not the only low point in the channel's peaktime line-up. Save for Children's Hospitalat 19.00, which drew 6.3 million (29.5 per cent), all the other programmes attracted less than 4 million viewers. Throughout peaktime BBC1 only managed to gain an 18.1 per cent share while ITV1 dominated peaktime viewing slicing off 30.9 per cent.

Over on Five, Clint Eastwood as cop Harry Callahan in Dirty Harryat 21.00 faired well with 2.2 million (10.4 per cent).

Overall peaktime shares for Wednesday 12 February: BBC1 - 18.1 per cent, ITV 1 - 30.9 per cent, BBC 2 - 11.0 per cent, Channel 4 - 12.1 per cent, Five - 5.7 per cent.

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