Good Morning Britain’s whole premise is to hit the headlines and stir up reactions on social media – and Piers Morgan was the perfect voice to create the controversy that would lead to the publicity.
A man who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, to be contrary and who tends to embrace social media backlash rather than be intimidated by it, Piers thrived in this environment. But there are lines that have been crossed – and it was always going to happen.
Allowing a single presenter the full freedom to launch tirades, force forward their own personal views on a huge platform and stir up ill feelings in some marginalised communities was always only going to end one way.
Piers made a big deal about Good Morning Britain’s ratings – every time someone was torn a new hole on the show, the tweets against Dan Walker would follow, accusing the presenter of being too soft on guests and making endless claims of GMB’s growing popularity against its rival.
Dan and Piers’ exchanges were usually partially in jest, but Dan Walker has today thanked tweeters who are telling him he is nothing like Piers as a presenter – whether they meant it as a compliment or a dig.
BBC Breakfast has steady ratings and generally beats Good Morning Britain – and they do not need to deploy tactics like rants against vegan sausage rolls and speaking over women and people of colour about racism after asking them a question.
As a regular viewer, the format of Good Morning Britain has always felt a little bit awkward. Susanna Reid seems to be there to simply act as the occasional disclaimer against something that Piers says. But we have seen car crash interviews over the episodes like the one that culminated in this week’s debacle.
This has led to Piers resigning but with 41,000 complaints to Ofcom, his position was arguably untenable anyway – and I believe ITV would have had to do something considering their focus on a huge mental health campaign, which promotes the very admirable mantra encouraging people to speak out.
Sadly for Piers, he has shattered what he has built up during covid-19. He has been one of the few presenters to really call out ministers over failings in the pandemic and he deserves to be praised for that.
He is also a man who is able to speak his mind about figures like Donald Trump, having admitted that he gave him the ‘benefit of the doubt’ before condemning his shameful legacy.
Piers had finally found the balance between causing controversy and being genuine and fighting for the right causes. Why get angry at a Greggs product when you can put ministers on the spot during a nationwide crisis?
But the Meghan standpoint became his undoing and thus the undoing of the reputation of Good Morning Britain. Talking over women of colour and their views on racism, constantly opining about Meghan when she has retained a silence in response and then storming off set when he was himself challenged by his own colleague has been a fall from grace.
Piers is a hot name, a good writer and someone who will get another role. But for ITV, Good Morning Britain now faces a big challenge if they don’t radically change their format.
The lesson here is that shock tactics and rants only go so far. Eventually, people see through it and realise it’s all a bit of a show – at the expense of real people – to try and beat BBC Breakfast.
Moving forward, Good Morning Britain needs to find a host that both can have opinions but importantly, will listen and take on board the opinions of others – without shouting and preventing them from speaking.
The idea of a chat show like Good Morning Britain is that it should be an ensemble team, not a platform for one person to air their own grievances. Susanna needs someone sat in that chair beside her who won’t antagonise guests for the ratings, but will merely challenge them and give them the right to respond.
Piers has had his moments – his holding ministers to account and his coverage of Captain Sir Tom Moore has been genuinely strong – but this debacle will be his and GMB’s legacy unless the programme changes its route.
Producers now have a crossroads both in its choice of new presenter but also its approach to topics. When you are talking about issues like trans rights, race or gender, it is imperative that this new host listens to what their guests actually have to say, and not talk over them.
Good Morning Britain had a good run of getting the shock ratings but enough is enough. When mental health and suicidal feelings are used to cause a stir, that’s the time to sit back and reflect if the show is to survive.
I believe in free speech but not to the detriment to anyone’s health. I hope that Good Morning Britain makes the right moves in this testing time – particularly with ITV’s mental health mantra in mind.
Until then, I am more than happy to stick with Dan Walker and Naga Munchetty where I know I will get balanced, nuanced discussion where everyone has a voice, not just one presenter.
Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview: Key moments
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have spoken to Oprah Winfrey in a bombshell interview about their decision to step back as senior working members of the Royal Family.
Here are the key points from the interview, which UK viewers can watch at 9pm on ITV on Monday, March 8.
- Meghan says it was Kate who made her cry over flower girls, not other way round
- Meghan says Harry was told there were ‘concerns how dark’ Archie would be
- Harry and Meghan reveal the gender of their baby due in summer
- Meghan sobs as she says pressures of royal life drove her to the verge of suicide
- Prince Charles stopped taking Harry’s calls after he quit Royal Family
- Harry says Meghan saved him from being ‘trapped’ like Prince Charles and Prince William are
- Princess Diana would be ‘sad and angry about how this has panned out’
- Meghan and Harry share adorable new video of son Archie at the beach
- Harry confirms terrible rift with William and says their relationship is now just ‘space’
- Queen ‘ghosted Harry during Megxit talks and got aide to say she was too busy’