Cast scandals lead to fall in viewers for 'EastEnders'

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Eastenders' viewing figures have fallen to an all-time low following a series of lurid headlines featuring the soap opera's stars.

On Tuesday night, 6.4 million people tuned in to watch the half-hour serving of life in Albert Square - the lowest audience since the Barb rating system was introduced in 1992.

The show, which usually attracts more than 11 million viewers on a Tuesday, only won about 34 per cent of audience share compared with its Tuesday average of 55 per cent.

The BBC denied the drop was related to newspaper stories about Leslie Grantham, who plays Den Watts, and Elaine Lordan, who plays the married Slater sister, Lynne, putting it down to warm weather and competition from ITV.

Grantham was forced to apologise to cast members earlier this month after it was revealed he had internet sex sessions in his dressing room at the EastEnders' studios in Elstree, Hertfordshire. He pledged to make a donation to charity and made a personal tribute to four co-stars who he was alleged to have criticised, including Shane Ritchie, who plays Alfie Moon.

Pregnant Elaine Lordan, who played Lynne Slater before she was axed from the show, appeared on the front of a red-top newspaper yesterday under the headline: "Drunk as a Lordan."

A BBC spokeswoman said: "Competitive scheduling on ITV had more to do with it than any of the recent headlines. EastEnders is an incredibly strong show with a very loyal audience." She added that EastEnders won Soap Opera of the Year at last week's British Soap Awards.