Sound, fury don't equal ratings


It may have generated acres of newsprint, a public spat with the royal family and the kind of controversy that has become the broadcaster's hallmark, but Channel 4's Diana documentary attracted only 3.8 million viewers Wednesday night.

"Diana: Witnesses in the Tunnel" drew 17% of the available audience, according to overnight figures from ratings agency Barb, finishing second in the 9 p.m. slot to BBC1's "The Apprentice," which pulled in 6.2 million viewers and a 27 share.

The documentary had courted controversy by showing pictures of the princess being attended to by an off-duty medical officer and given oxygen at the wreckage scene, but the princess was obscured from view.

The filmmakers said their program shed light on the role played by paparazzi photographers in the car crash beneath the Pont d'Alma in Paris in 1997, in which the Princess of Wales, her lover, Dodi Fayed, and the car's driver, Henri Paul, were killed. It concluded that, though widely blamed for their role in the crash at the time, the photographers had not been a source of harassment and had not impeded medical teams at the scene.

Channel 4 had come under sustained pressure after Princes William and Harry requested that the network cut some of the still photos eventually aired.

Earlier in the week, representatives of the princes had called on the broadcaster to drop the images of the crash, arguing that they would cause "acute distress" to the young men and were "redolent with the atmosphere and tragedy of the closing moments of their mother's life."

Chief executive Andy Duncan responded by apologizing for the anguish that the documentary would cause, but maintained that it was an issue that was "in the public interest."

The public outcry has come at a difficult time for the broadcaster, which last month was censured for allowing racist bullying in its January show "Celebrity Big Brother." Media regulator Ofcom found the broadcaster guilty of "serious editorial misjudgments" over the way it handled racism on the show.

Channel 4 on Thursday evicted 19-year-old "Big Brother" contestant Emily Parr for using a racially abusive word to a black housemate. The scene was not broadcast but was monitored by production staff.