Hosted by Carol Vorderman, the awards drew a 23.7% share of viewing as people tuned in to see celebrities highlight the courage of member of the public.
The 8-10pm coverage included Sir Richard Branson and double gold medal Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington presenting a Child of Courage award to Liam Fairhurst.
On BBC One at 9-10pm the new series of pathology drama 'Silent Witness' drew 5.5m (23.2%). This was not enough to beat the second hour of the awards, which peaked at 6m.
Back for a new series in the same slot was BBC Two's US import 'Heroes'. Viewers appear to have retained their interest in the show after the first two seasons, with 3.1m joining it last night, giving it a 13.1% share.
This was double what Channel 4 mustered for the third instalment in its fly-on-the-wall documentary series 'The Family'. Its showing on the main channel drew 1.5m and a 6.5% share, with a further 357,000 catching the Channel 4+1 showing.
Five managed 1.1m viewers, a 5.6% share, for Steven Seagal movie 'Half Past Dead'.