Breakfast TV – how it nearly failed
Being a breakfast TV pioneer. From reading out bingo numbers to hobnobbing with Hollywood, witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall and exchanging fashion tips with Margaret Thatcher!
Here Anne tells the story of her “lucky break” into national television, when she was offered the job of female anchor on Britain’s first commercial breakfast television programme, TVam’s Good Morning Britain, in 1983. Trouble was, at the time, it didn’t feel like such a great opportunity. Team had fizzed into the nation’s bedrooms and kitchens like the ultimate damp squib. After all the hype of the self-styled Famous Five (Angela Rippon, David Frost, Anna Ford, Robert Key and Michael Parkinson), the viewing public gave it one look and switched off. Not surprising when you see that the first programme featured a long report on Female Genital Mutilation followed by a 20 minute interview with Norman Tebbit. Worthy items indeed, but not at 8am for a family audience eating their cornflakes and getting the kids off to school. By the time Anne was offered the job, TVam was a laughing stock, with no viewers, enormous debts, barely enough money to pay the electricity bill at their trendy Camden Lock studios, and Anne was warned by colleagues at the BBC that if she defected to TVam, and it failed, she would never be welcomed back. It was a huge risk, but an exciting one.
Within the first few weeks of a new line-up, with Nick Owen, Chris Tarrant, Jimmy Greaves as TV reviewer, Pat Pheonix as Agony Aunt and Diana Dors as slimming guru, and the indomitable Roland Rat, viewers came back in their droves and before long, TVam became Britain’s most profitable commercial TV station.
Anne was flown all over the world, to the most interesting places at the most interesting times. She celebrated the 40th anniversary of Mickey Mouse live from Disneyland, California, being kissed on national TV by Patrick Duffy of Man from Atlantis and Dallas fame. She bobbed on the waters of Sydney harbour for a live programme marking the Australian bicentennial.
She presented live from the Berlin Wall, as it was almost literally “falling” behind her at Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate. She interviewed Margaret Thatcher, Bette Davis, Dusty Springfield, Maradona, Pele, The Beatles, Pierce Brosnan, Princess Diana, – there’s an anecdote behind every name.
Anne reckons that she had the best job in British television, during a time before spin, before PR over-control, and when celebrities and politicians did what they were told – and got up at 6 in the morning to be interviewed on the famous TVam orange sofa, to join Mad Lizzie in her morning “shake-up” and laugh along with Rustie Lee in the kitchen. It was indeed a Golden Age, and Anne was the acknowledged Queen of Breakfast TV.