This TV duck's no canard: Darkwing's mission is to win back the missing viewers, writes Martin Wroe

DARKWING DUCK, caped crimebuster of St Canard and one of America's most popular animated characters, landed at GMTV yesterday facing the most difficult case of his life.

Can Darkwing and his faithful feathered friends Launchpad McQuack and Honker Muddlefoot attract several hundred thousand viewers back to the troubled station which replaced its chairman last week and lost its director of programmes this week?

'I am the terror that flaps in the night. I am the scouring pad that scrubs the stains of crime.' said Darkwing, who will have a half-hour series every Saturday at 8.50am. But can he do a Roland Rat? When TV-am faced an even worse crisis in 1983, Greg Dyke and the plain-speaking rodent raised audiences from 200,000 a day to 1.8m.

At GMTV this week, they were insisting that Darkwing's arrival within days of Mr Dyke's emergency installation as chairman was coincidence. But the Duck Factor is one of Mr Dyke's narrowing range of options given the failure of the much-hyped F (for fanciability) factor.

Addressing readers of the Sun newspaper on Thursday, Roland Rat, fresh from Hollywood where he is being groomed for stardom, had a concise remedy for the ailing station: sack the presenters, scrap the news, slash the budget, smash up the set and 'bring in the real F-factor - fur'. Instead, they've gone for feathers but the strategy is the same - GMTV has lost younger viewers to Channel 4's 'zoo-television' Big Breakfast Show. Children can be the key to unlocking adult audiences in the early morning. 'He who controls the button controls the choice' the television adage goes.

'The duck is not a replica of Roland Rat,' insisted Peter McHugh, appointed director of programmes this week after Lis Howell resigned, 'but we do have to appeal to everyone because we have lost kids to Channel 4.'

Chris Locke, broadcast director at The Media Centre, the research wing of the advertising agency DMB & B, says that the duck's arrival is more significant than the station admits. 'They've got to get to the kids because the kids are the way to the parents in the morning. Stations need mascots. Sky One has DJ Kat and without Roland Rat TV-am would have been a disaster. Darkwing is the future.'

Darkwing comes from Disney, one of GMTV's five main shareholders. Mr Locke predicts that, if the duck factor works on Saturdays, Mr McHugh will introduce Darkwing during the week in tantalising snatches from 7.15am so that children turn on to GMTV. Then the parents, notably the mothers, will get into the habit. This is known in the trade as 'reverse build back' - and it was the key to Roland Rat's revival of TV-am.

But GMTV will have to do more than attract the young, according to one senior ITV executive who did not want to be named: 'A number of former TV-am viewers are not tuning in because it's not very exciting.'

Morale at the eight-week old station is rock bottom, not least among the much-criticised presenters. Mr McHugh concedes that this has affected programme quality. 'They have had the worst six months of their lives - their intestines have been examined, their love lives written about, the length of their calves measured and their humour criticised. It is demoralising if every time you open a newspaper you read that you are crap.'

Mr McHugh plans to replace 'creative tension' at the station with 'creative fun'. 'We have a great team of journalists here but when you are working 27 hours a day with someone looking over your shoulder all the time, the stress is reflected on screen.'

David Kogan, the managing editor, said that changes would include more good news stories and fewer showbiz interviews. 'We still need showbiz but more showbiz news, not just interviews with someone who's got a video in the top 90.'

GMTV's shareholders have deep pockets, but they have to find pounds 34.6m a year for the Treasury, the size of the bid that won them the franchise. The station will have to make changes quickly to win back its audience and boost advertising revenue. The Big Breakfast's audience is still growing, the more upmarket BBC Breakfast News looks solid and, in October, satellite viewers will be able to tune to the American children's station, Nickelodeon, on Sky from 7am to 7pm.

But if the duck factor fails, it could all be down to the rat. In an exclusive interview with The Independent on Sunday, the celebrity rodent admitted that 'Greg Dyke has asked for a secret meeting at a sewer near GMTV and I've sent my agent, Kevin the Gerbil.

'If they come crawling with a six-figure sum I might lower myself to returning to breakfast TV but otherwise I'm off back to my Malibu beach hut.'

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head