Record audience saw 'Alan Clark Diaries'

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The Independent Online

The Alan Clark Diaries attracted a record audience for the digital channel BBC4 on Thursday night. The first episode in the serialisation, starring John Hurt as the late Tory MP, was watched by 846,000 viewers.

It is the biggest audience for BBC4 since its launch two years ago, beating rival programmes on BBC2, Channel 4, Five and Sky One in multi-channel homes.

BBC bosses have come under fire for first showing the eagerly awaited drama on a channel which millions of viewers cannot watch. The decision to spend an estimated £1.6m on a billboard and TV advertising campaign was criticised. Hurt himself had condemned the decision to screen the series on BBC4. He complained of "ludicrous budget constraints" and said BBC2 was the programme's natural home.

The series will be shown on BBC2 in March. BBC4's controller, Roly Keating, hailed the viewing figures as a "milestone" for the digital channel.

"We're very proud of The Alan Clark Diaries and it's fantastic so many people came to it on its first episode," he said. "This is a real milestone for BBC4, and further proof that digital television is coming of age with great, intelligent, home-grown programming."