'It has always been about my sanity'

...says Norwich-dwelling, vegetarian Trisha on her move to Five. Ciar Byrne listens
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The Independent Online

The turning point in Trisha Goddard's negotiations to keep her daytime chat show on ITV came when newspapers reported that other female presenters had been screen-tested for her job.

If bosses at Granada had acted swiftly to refute the claims, her final decision to ditch the network in favour of its younger rival, Five, might not have been made so easily. As it was, speculation that Natasha Kaplinsky, Vanessa Feltz and Claire Sweeney, among others, were being lined up to replace her, made Goddard defiant. "I didn't read any stories refuting them, which would have been great... It's like when you hear your bloke's been in the pub, saying he can get any girl going. I'd say, 'You know what? Do it'."

In October 2004, at the end of an already traumatic year in which she lost her mother and her best friend, Goddard announced that she was quitting ITV in favour of a two-year, £5m golden-handcuffs deal with Five. Her new show starts on weekday afternoons from 24 January.

Those who go out to work may not be acquainted with Goddard, the UK's answer to Oprah Winfrey, whose morning shows, Trisha, on ITV featured such delights as on-air paternity tests and lie detectors enabling guests to discover whether their partners have been cheating on them. While its content may not be to everyone's taste, Trisha was hot property for Granada, drawing in around 1.5 million viewers daily. But despite being offered more money, Goddard chose to defect to Five and the promise of complete creative freedom to make her show through her own Norwich-based production company, Town House TV.

"What Granada had to offer and what I felt I needed was not the same. I'm a vegetarian, so if I go into a steakhouse, somewhere, me and the steakhouse are going to part company. It was time for something new. It has never been about the money. It has always been about my sanity. I wanted to spread my wings creatively," says Goddard, a trained mental-health counsellor.

Her show has been criticised for presenting the results of DNA tests to guests live on air. One 19-year-old, Anthony Sampson, attacked his girlfriend's father after discovering that he was not the father of her four-month-old son. When he admitted the assault at Norwich magistrates court, his solicitor described Trisha as "the lowest common denominator" and "absolutely appalling".

"People always take pot shots. Which show has not attracted criticism?" responds Goddard. She has not yet decided whether her Five show will also feature DNA tests, but points out that she made the tests available to those who would not otherwise be able to afford them, and provided post-show counselling.

She is not concerned about who will replace her at ITV. "The people who would worry me aren't on TV. I've discovered them and I'm going to work with them." Nor will she admit to worries that Five, a young channel, will not deliver as big an audience. "I like the new kid on the block, the underdog who is keen and hungry."

Did she have other offers? "I could have gone to another network that will remain nameless," she replies, adding that it wasn't Channel 4. US broadcasters have also approached her, but she decided to stay in Britain for the sake of her family - she lives near Norwich with her husband and two young daughters.

Goddard began her television career in Australia as a current-affairs journalist with SBS TV, and then as presenter on ABC's news and current -affairs programme The 7.30 Report, where she was the country's first black primetime anchor. While she herself has never suffered from racism - she was headhunted to become a chat-show host in 1998 - she believes that it is still prevalent in British television. "It's a very unfashionable thing to say. It's not recognised now - we know those mindsets are there, but broadcasters all vehemently deny it. How many black presenters are there really?"

She sums up her decision to move to Five as "intuitive": "I was pretty sceptical when Five came along. What did it for me was when Dan Chambers [Five's head of programmes] said, 'We believe in you. Wherever you want to take us, we'll go'. Those were the sweetest words."