'EastEnders' wins in ratings battle

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The Independent Online

Eastenders and The Vicar of Dibley emerged the victors in the battle of the Christmas Day television audiences as the BBC beat ITV into third place in the ratings war.

An hour-long special of the BBC soap was watched by an average of 12.3 million viewers with 11.8 million tuning in for the Dawn French comedy and 11.3 million watching Coronation Street.

The number of people sitting down for the Queen's speech continued to decline with one million fewer people watching the message this year compared to last: 5.5 million tuned in, but 9.3 million watched in 2002 and 6.5 million in 2003.

The BBC 10.20pm news was fourth with 10.3 million viewers, beating its ITV rival which only managed seventh place with 7.1 million. Though the BBC is the traditional winner of the seasonal ratings war this year's figures showed a continued decline in numbers of those tuning in to the major channels.

Figures have been falling since the record Christmas television audience with the Angie and Den bust-up episode of EastEnders, which was watched by 30.15 million people in 1986.

Overall BBC1 captured 40.6 per cent of the Christmas Day peak time viewing figures compared with ITV1's 31.9 per cent.