Right of Reply: Peter McHugh, director of programmes at GMTV, replies to the critics

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The Independent Culture

On Saturday morning, GMTV will have completed its first rocky year since taking over from TV-am. The audiences for the morning magazine show have not matched TV-am at its height and the critics have looked on disapprovingly: 'I used to think that morning broadcasting could get no worse than TV-am, but GMTV has effortlessly led the way further down-market,' Victor Lewis-Smith wrote in the Evening Standard. 'It comes on like a local TV-am - same set, but now with new reduced content,' Mark Steyn wrote in the Mail on Sunday. And all the while, The Big Breakfast's (C 4) audience has grown and the critics have all but come round to it.


'You can't compare our audience with the larger one TV- am had 18 months ago because The Big Breakfast hadn't started then. Yet, after probably the most disastrous launch in history, despite all our mistakes, the hype for the opposition and the sort of criticism we've had, more people still choose to watch us each day than any other breakfast channel.

'When I arrived six months ago, it became clear that GMTV had managed to achieve the impossible: it had managed not to get any new viewers and to frighten off those viewers it had inherited from TV-am. It was my policy then to reassure the old TV- am audience that the whole world hadn't changed overnight. And the policy was to reassure them with those parts of TV-am that were acceptable for 1993. Mark Steyn said it looks like TV-am. Well, well spotted Mark. It's meant to.

'GMTV came to the marketplace saying to the ITC that we would provide a certain service to the viewers, with three-and-a-half hours of current affairs and four hours of features a week. The Big Breakfast, meanwhile, is a perfectly crafted and brilliantly produced programme aimed at the under-15s; it's not regulated and why should it be? It puts on cartoons and why shouldn't it? I am one of 120 journalists who are employed by GMTV - and we don't want to make a kids' show.

'I worked at TV-am nine years ago and I give people here the same message we had at TV-am: we will be successful, we already have the greatest number of viewers, yet if we continue for the next 50 years, we will never ever get any critical acclaim. All we will get is people watching the programme.

'And my final line to Victor and to Mark is I wish them all the success possible as presenters on TV.'

(Photograph omitted)