The Vicar of Dibley, the Richard Curtis sitcom starring comedienne Dawn French, helped the BBC dominate the Christmas ratings war with ITV for yet another year.

According to industry figures 11.4 million viewers tuned in to watch the first of a two-part finale for the sitcom, which has seen Dawn French play Geraldine Granger since 1994, edging out the demise of Pauline Fowler in EastEnders.

ITV1 managed to achieve third place with its top soap Coronation Street, which was watched by 9.6 million viewers, while Emmerdale came in ninth with 7.2 million.

BBC1 took all the remaining places in the top ten programmes, however, although the 7.6 million who watched the Queen's speech were shared with ITV1.

Popular science fiction classic Doctor Who, starring David Tennant, came in fifth with 8.7 million viewers, while 7.3 million tuned in to watch Colin Jackson win the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special.

"What this shows is that family viewing is alive and well and in excellent health," BBC1 controller Peter Fincham told the Press Association news agency.

"We've had a wonderful schedule of programmes that audiences love - Doctor Who, EastEnders, The Vicar of Dibley, Strictly Come Dancing and Little Britain have proved an irresistible combination."

26/12/2006 17:46:35