FORMER TV-am host Nick Owen has warned that viewers are put off ITV’s ailing breakfast programmes because of how much their big-name presenters are said to be paid.
Strictly Come Dancing star Susanna Reid, 43, announced last month that she was defecting from BBC Breakfast to front ITV’s new breakfast show Good Morning Britain in a reported £1 million deal.
The show replaces Daybreak, whose launch presenters Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley were dropped, despite their bumper pay packets, a little over a year after the programme first went on air.
But Owen, who helped turn around TV-am’s fortunes in the early 1980s, told Radio Times magazine: “I joined TV-am after a raft of big names had failed - David Frost, Michael Parkinson, Anna Ford, Angela Rippon.... they’d not caught on with the viewers at all.
“They’d been turned down by Terry Wogan and Michael Aspel, so I was filling in until they could find someone, basically. But because no-one was watching, we could try things out. They hired Anne Diamond at my suggestion and we had a boy-and-girl-next-door thing.” The presenter added: “I think all these announcements about high salaries alienate viewers. Here’s someone on a million pounds - you will enjoy them! Who can relate to a presenter like that?”
ITV, which has been attempting to compete against BBC Breakfast since Daybreak launched, with much fanfare, in 2010, has not confirmed how much it is paying Reid, who will be joined by former GMTV star Ben Shephard, Charlotte Hawkins and Sean Fletcher on Good Morning Britain.
Former GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips, who left the show in 2008, said that presenters must reflect their audience.
“Eamonn Holmes and I - you can’t manufacture that sort of chemistry,” she said. “We’d both come from the same backgrounds as the viewers - our parents had worked hard, we had worked hard up through the ranks to get there. We weren’t out at premieres living the glamorous life. People don’t want to see that in the morning - they can’t relate.
“We’d talk about our lives, what we were doing after the show, a row with our partner... things that people can identify with. That’s all the more important on commercial television these days. You have to keep people coming back after the break, and the breaks are longer than ever.”
Reid, who split from her long-term partner Dominic Cotton in February, told the magazine that she would bring her experience of life to the new programme.
She said of the programme’s forthcoming launch: “I don’t dread anything. Even the early morning alarm clock. When you have done Strictly Come Dancing live on a Saturday night in front of millions... I’ll never be that nervous again.”