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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Oprah to keep talking
Oprah Winfrey
Winfrey is one of US TV's leading stars
US talk show star Oprah Winfrey has confirmed she will carry on with her programme until 2008 - after originally planning to retire two years earlier.

The 49-year-old presenter was persuaded to stick with the programme by her producers at King World Productions, which announced the extension to her contract.

"It's fulfilling being able to do this kind of television," Winfrey said.

"I believe continuing to have a voice and a platform to speak to the world is still the right thing to do."

The Oprah Winfrey Show, which is syndicated around the world, was seeing its ratings fall the last time Winfrey renewed her contract, in May 2002.

But a revival in its fortunes, together with the success of a spin-off programme featuring her one-time protégé, lifestyle coach Dr Phil McGraw, helped persuade her to stay with the show.

King World chief executive Roger King said he never stopped asking Winfrey to stay on, adding he sensed a change was coming after she visited Africa last year.

"I think she came back reinvigorated, knowing her vision is right, and she wants to stay with it," Mr King said.

'Making a difference'

The company is now running ads in TV trade papers declaring there is "no end in sight" for the series, which first began in 1986.

Tim Bennett, president of her Harpo Productions company, said rising ratings among the young made her feel "she is truly making a difference".

The programme is syndicated to 211 US TV stations, as well as broadcasters in 105 countries.

It has spawned countless imitations around the globe, with US presenters Maury Povich, Ellen DeGeneres and Wayne Brady tipped as possible future successors to her position.

Winfrey first made her name broadcasting in Nashville, Tennessee before moving to her current base in Chicago.

She is reported to earn over $150m (£92m) each year, and earlier this year, she also became the first black American woman to make the annual Forbes list of the world's wealthiest people.

The business magazine listed 476 people and said Winfrey had a fortune of about $1 billion (£612m).

Winfrey's book club, which was recently scaled down, also proved a huge success, with her endorsement of a novel ensuring it made the bestseller lists.

Some ABC stations have already renewed the programme, following speculation the series could transfer to rival CBS, a sister company to King World.

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