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London riots draw ratings high for BBC News

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The unrest across London enabled the BBC's 10pm news bulletin to draw its biggest audience of the year, but the corporation has been criticised for describing the rioters as "protestors".

The BBC News at Ten, featuring coverage of the chaos in London, Birmingham and other cities, averaged 7.15m viewers for BBC One between 10pm and 10.30pm, commanding 32.6% of the TV audience in its timeslot.

The BBC's flagship bulletin peaked with 7.52m during the opening 15 minutes, captivating 33% of the audience, according to the overnight data.

This was BBC News at Ten's biggest audience of the year, beating the previous high of 6.65m for the bulletin on May 22 featuring coverage of the Icelandic ash cloud.

ITV News At Ten did not see such a ratings windfall, attracting 2m viewers between 10pm and 10.45pm, representing 9.3% of the audience at the time.

BBC Two's Newsnight programme attracted 1.33m viewers from 10.30pm, beating its previous best audience of 2011 in early July for coverage of the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

The riots and unrest over the past three days have resulted in major damage across the capital, including a massive fire at a Sony distribution warehouse in Enfield, North London.

However, the BBC has been criticised by some Twitter users for referring to those involved in the rioting and looting as "protestors" rather than criminals, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Posting on the micro-blogging site, Duncan Barkes wrote: "Hello BBC. They are not protesters, are they? Rioters better description. I mean, what's the cause for the protest?"

Fellow Twitter user Dee Modha said: "This Hackney BBC reporter needs to stop calling them protesters. Thugs, hooligans and opportunists are better words."

Jo Suherman added: "Wish the BBC would stop referring to rioters as 'protesters'. For BBC protest synonymous with violence and looting."

In the wake of the 7/7 attacks in London in 2005, the BBC was criticised for sending out a memo to its news teams advising them not to use the word "terrorist" in their coverage reports.

The message, sent by the head of BBC News Helen Boaden, said that "the word 'terrorist' itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding".

Last night, a BBC spokesman said that the corporation had not told its reporters to use specific language while covering the disturbances, and pointed out that terms such as "riot" and "rioters" were used in the coverage.

Also yesterday, it was reported that police had identified the Grand Theft Auto video game series as a possible contributing factor to the violence across London.

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