For those of you watching in black and white – Piers Morgan, Britain’s most shocking TV presenter, has sensationally quit ITV’s Good Morning Britain. On the face of it after an on-air explosion with Alex Beresford, the BAME weatherman over Piers’ treatment of Meghan Markle. In truth, his resignation has been coming from a long way back.
Not because the audience weren’t with him – huge parts of them are. Just read the comments on the stream of Harry/Meghan stories. GMB had a record audience this week – to see what Piers would say. No. He went because his bosses couldn’t take the heat – the 41,000 complaints to OFCOM. The battering from the woke brigade. And it seems a direct complaint from the Duchess herself to GMB’s CEO.
Just as Trinity Mirror boss Sly Bailey couldn’t deal with the Iraq Army brutality story when he was Editor of The Mirror. Just as Rupert Murdoch – by total contrast – rolled with the enormous extravagances of Kelvin MacKenzie’s Sun. His tabloid money tree, shoot to kill journalism. I’m not passing moral judgement – just comparing big balls versus eunuchs.
This is a piece about the business of news. Not royal racism or weeping princesses and a bolshy presenter – they are all simply the ton loads of grist fed daily into the churning news machine. This is about how we get our news from this moment forward.
We have always shied away from shock jock news presenters in the UK. TV reporters and presenters are supposed to tell the news straight. So you end up with a Murdoch-owned SKY News turning out germ-free news and opinions – a million miles from The Sun which kept it afloat for years with tits, bums and raucous headlines. Antiseptic opinions don’t cut it now. Not in a world where everyone is a publisher on social, telling @bignamestar precisely what they think of them in an instant.
And the big players get it. Media titans Rupert Murdoch and Andrew Neil, his former Sunday Times Editor and arch TV interviewer, are pouring over £100M into rival TV news channel launches. SKY are on a war footing. The BBC and ITV are under huge threat. They are all looking for a ratings gamechanger. (No Alex – we don’t mean you son. Stick to reading the weather autocue, you’ve had your 15.)
But if the new entrants turn out yet another “News at Ten” they are dead meat. Make it “FU Views at Ten”. Piers as anchor with a rottweiler sidekick and a team of top commentators and analysts to rip the subject to shreds – one hour every night. Would at the very least give OFCOM a cerebral bypass of the danglies. I’ll watch.
None of us buy newspapers for news. You get that from whatever wakes you up – mobile alerts, mates sending you links, WhatsApp groups. Google, Facebook and Apple News in your timeline. The world wants opinions – the louder the better. Who do you trust the most – in your face Piers or fake news Facebook.
The end of this Piers show is only just beginning. Easy to run him down. You don’t know him – I do. He is a great colleague, does his homework, holds his victims to account. By the throat. He turned GMB into a ratings winner. As worrying for the less-gifted bosses than failure.
A success that comes at a price. You can’t control him. And only the top echelons of senior media managers will be able to ride the tiger. But he is no racist, not even close. What he has are opinions by the boatload – his audience is the over-vocal Twitterati and he knows how to plug them in – 10 times the size of his GMB viewership. When did anyone last mention BBC Breakfast. Thought not.
The true shame – if there is any – is losing it to a no mark weatherman. There’s no love lost, that’s clear. Watch the GMB viewing figures plummet. Autocue Alex isn’t the man to hold onto those. By a street he ain’t.
Early mornings or the main night time news. He can have his pick, it’s where he will be most powerful. What he needs is a black, feisty mega opinionated woke female who will give as good as she gets. Ferk me. That’ll be Meghan. Now we’d all tune in for that.
Steve Sampson, Journalist, is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, and a Director of Trinity Mirror publications. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. Based in Scotland, he is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives, and a media adviser. He lists “Diplomacy” as a speciality.