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Despite its topical importance, the documentary film "A Family in Captivity" - about the Shalit family's efforts to secure the release of their son Gilad since he was kidnapped by Hamas in June 2006 - was watched by only 10.6 percent of television viewers when it aired Sunday night. That figure represents less than half of the 26.1 percent who watched the reality show "Big Brother."

The ratings data undoubtedly pleased Channel 2 franchisee Keshet, which broadcasts "Big Brother." But officials at Channel 10, which aired the documentary, said they, too, were pleased, as they'd expected the film to capture only about half the percentage of viewers it actually drew. Moreover, they noted, because the film was broadcast without any commercials, its rating has no financial significance.

Regarding the decision to go head-to-head with long-time ratings champ "Big Brother," a Channel 10 official explained that the film had originally been slated to air a month ago, but was postponed due to a request from the Shalit family. In any case, he added, had ratings been the channel's main concern, it would not have aired the film during its regular documentary slot on Sunday night, but on a different night, when it might have attracted more viewers.

Channel 10 has recently been trying to differentiate itself from Channel 2by airing more investigative and documentary programs. So far, however, such programs have not succeeded in attracting the same wide audience as its rival's lineup of pure entertainment.

Meanwhile, the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee yesterday suspended debate on a bill to extend Channel 10's franchise, after the channel's CEO said it could not comply with the bill as currently formulated.