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Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 14:08 GMT
Fern brightens This Morning figures
Fern Britton
Fern Britton made her name on Ready, Steady, Cook
Fern Britton's return to the This Morning sofa has seen the show's audience rise for the first time since Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan quit.

The daytime programme had hit problems since the departure of its two original presenters after 13 years.

A partnership between Twiggy Lawson and Coleen Nolan saw ratings plummet, and the former model departed the show soon after.

Britton was persuaded to return from maternity leave early and her first three days back have shown strong audience figures.

The audience share has risen to 30%, with an average of 1.1 million viewers tuning in.

But the show will still be cut by 30 minutes from 12 November.

Richard and Judy
Richard and Judy entertained morning viewers for 13 years

At its peak on Monday, Britton's first day back, the audience reached 1.4 million.

Last week's performance showed an average audience of between 0.9 million and one million.

Early release

Recent audience shares have wavered between 19% and 23%.

Former 60s icon Twiggy was released early from her contract after just a month and John Leslie was brought back full-time to co-present with Nolan.

Britton had been a regular part-time presenter on This Morning during the final year's of Richard and Judy's reign.

She was on maternity leave when Twiggy was dramatically axed.

But she was persuaded to make a quick return following the birth of her daughter and she will now present in rotation with Nolan and Leslie.

Britton, who is best known for presenting Ready, Steady, Cook, is married to This Morning chef Phil Vickery.

Husband-and-wife team Richard and Judy have just announced their return to the screen in a daily teatime Channel 4 show, starting on 26 November.

See also:

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A marriage made on morning TV
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19 Apr 99 | Entertainment
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