BBC's 'Question Time' a ratings success

8 million tune in to see right-wing politician grilled

LONDON -- BBC bosses avoided chaos and scenes of violence Thursday night and woke up Friday morning with 8 million viewers -- three times the typical number -- after the appearance of right-wing nationalist politician Nick Griffin on its flagship current affairs panel show "Question Time."

With Griffin's screen-grabbed face on the front of every national newspaper Friday morning after his appearance, the BBC faced a fresh round of debate and accusations of "publicity-seeking" naivety in the wake of the politician's appearance.

The corporation noted that the 8 million viewers for the show, which aired late Thursday evening, is "triple its typical audience."

Security has been stepped up inside and outside the BBC's West London studios, where hundreds of anti-fascist demonstrators gathered to protest Griffin's appearance.

BBC deputy director general Mark Byford insisted it had been "appropriate" to invite Griffin to appear given the level of support his party achieved in the last European elections.

He added: "We remain firmly of the view that it was appropriate to invite Nick Griffin on to the 'Question Time' panel this evening in the context of the BBC meeting its obligation of due impartiality."

A last ditch effort to take control of the situation by the BBC Trust, who met late Wednesday night to discuss rescinding the invitation, had ended in impasse after the trust said it could not act ahead of the program.

The decision to allow the far-right head of the British National Party a berth on one of the U.K.'s highest-profile current affairs programs has drawn fury from some political quarters who say the BBC is giving the party undue publicity.

Griffin gave what has been described as a "twitchy" performance on the political discussion panel and was booed, jeered and mocked by the largely hostile studio audience.