BBC1 without 'Kilroy' gains more viewers

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The Independent Online

The BBC'S decision to remove Robert Kilroy-Silk's morning show - after the presenter's critical remarks about Arabs - has boosted the network's viewing figures.

Audience figures released yesterday reveal 150,000 more people were watching BBC1 on Monday morning - when Kilroy first came off the air - than tuned into the network at the same time a week earlier.

The BBC suspended the former MP after he described Arab people as "suicide bombers, limb-amputators and women repressors" in a column for the Sunday Express.

In place of Kilroy, BBC1 has broadcast an extra 30 minutes of its Breakfast programme and the makeover show Garden Invaders.

The extended section of the Breakfast bulletin achieved an average audience of 1.2 million, compared to a Kilroy audience of 1.05 million a week earlier.

In terms of audience share, the contrast was equally visible. Monday's extension of Breakfast was watched by 26 per cent of viewers, compared to 21 per cent who were watching Kilroy a week earlier.

The BBC denied its decision to suspend Kilroy-Silk's show was an attack on free speech. The suspension, said a spokesman, "is about how the job of a BBC presenter carries responsibilities."

At the Express, the pro-Kilroy campaign moved up a gear. The Daily Express's front page headline was "We are sick and tired of being gagged".