Right of Reply: Andy Barnes

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The Independent Culture
Channel 4's commercial director answers Richard Cook's criticisms of The Big Breakfast

IT'S BEEN The Big Breakfast's turn to be wrung through the ratings mill, with The Independent jumping on the bandwagon last Tuesday to pronounce the show in "deep trouble". It's not the first time the show has been declared dead in the water by a newspaper that would give its eye-teeth to be able to attract that self-same audience.

For newspapers, size is the only measure of success in television. Hence the BBC's Vanity Fair is a "flop" for attracting 7 million viewers - a total that is way in excess of the combined readership of all the broadsheets put together. And The Big Breakfast is "deep in crisis" because its ratings are lower than at its launch in 1992 - a time when satellite was a sickly infant and cable was a knitted sweater, while Channel 5 and many of today's radio stations didn't exist.

In the face of fierce competition The Big Breakfast continues to average around half a million viewers with Johnny and Kelly at the helm - the same as the previous 16 months. The show is must-view TV for many of the key, light-viewing demographic groups. Any media buyer wanting to reach young and elusive viewers has The Big Breakfast on his list as a matter of course. Contrary to figures stated in The Independent, the revenue performance of The Big Breakfast has remained steady over its seven years on air.

Beyond ratings and revenue The Big Breakfast punches above its weight for Channel 4 as one of the best-known brands on British television. Its unique creative energy has been imitated but never equalled. That's why Johnny Vaughan has signed up for another year.

Keep writing the obituaries, but you'll be waiting a long time for the death rattle.